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Saving green keeping parks green
Irrigation wells wean parks off expensive drinking water
The landscaping along the northern and middle legs of the Tidewater Bikeway are irrigated using water drawn from higher water tables and not the municipal water drinking system. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca is spending money to save money.

By taking $456,665 from the water system’s undesignated maintenance and operations reserves the City Council last week put in motion a project that will delay the need for the city to drill a $2 million well for domestic water needs.

The plan is to take four more of Manteca’s 50 municipal parks off the city’s domestic water system for irrigation proposes. Instead shallower wells that tap into the higher water table that is unsuitable for drinking will be put in place by Turlock-based Calwater Drilling.

The strategy has played a significant role in helping Manteca freeze its water rates for residential and business customers for the past three years.

The new irrigation wells will be drilled at Curran Grove Park, Button Estates Park, Dutra Farms Park, and Diamond Oaks Park. When completed, it will bring the number of parks using their own water system for irrigation to 16 or almost a third of all municipal parks including the 52-acre Woodward Park. That is in addition to the 32-acre Tidewater Bikeway that draws part of its landscaping irrigation from separate wells. The municipal golf course plus the Big League Dreams sports complex also are on shallower irrigation wells.

Besides reducing the need for new water wells, it conserves potable water supplies while helping improve water pressure.

City engineers a decade ago noted that part of the city’s water pressure problem came between 4 and 8 a.m. Monday through Friday when parks were still being irrigated, residential lawn irrigation system come on and people were getting up to prepare for work and school. Neighborhoods where parks have had their own irrigation wells put in place have seen an increase in water pressure.

When the parks are being irrigated they draw 300 gallons a minute. Since watering takes place in the early morning it also hits at peak usage.

The switch also avoids using expensive treated drinking water to irrigate park grass and landscaping further reducing financial impacts on the park portion of the city’s stressed general fund. And since water is being taken from a higher water table, the electrical load needed to pump the same amount of water compared to deeper potable wells is also lower to help reduce power costs as well.

Parks where irrigation wells have already been installed have noticed a severe drop in yellow or brown spots. That’sbecause water pressure is also significantly better for the irrigation of parks once they are drawing on their own independent wells. The higher water table also has a higher nitrate concentration which helps fuel healthy grass growth.

Among the other parks already weaned from domestic water include Doxey Park, Shasta Park, Colony Park, Lincoln Park, Antigua Park, Yosemite Village Park, Dutra Estates Park, Woodward Park, Chadwick Park, Primavera Park, Bella Vista Park, and Springport Park.

Besides saving money the park wells also take pressure off underground water tables that have steadily been dropping since the 1930s throughout the Central Valley.

Manteca has a dual system mixing well water with surface water treated at the Nick DeGroot Water Treatment Plant 16 miles to the east at the base of Woodward Reservoir.