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Schools aim for 20% cut in water use
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Recycled wastewater could one day irrigate expansive playing fields and other landscaping at Manteca Unified campuses.

It is one of five long-term goals the school district is pursuing to reduce water use by 20 percent by the time 2020 rolls around.

The other long-term goals are:

uassigning a ground employee to monitor water use and waste.

ure-grade mounds and redesign topographic features that create irrigation challenges and excessive run-off.

uuse mulch around trees and shrubs instead of grass.

uinstall meters to monitor quantity of use and detect leaks.

Manteca Unified, in a bid to reduce costs, started stepping up water conservation in 2009 — a full two years before the current four-year drought started. It is part of the district’s Green Initiative that includes reducing electricity use.

The City of Manteca is now in the process of cobbling together a reclaimed water use plan — a critical step under state law before they can start using treated wastewater to irrigate parks, landscaping, and potentially school playing fields. Parks and schools are the top two users of water in Manteca.

The biggest cost is putting purple pipe mains in place to get the treated recycled wastewater to various sites. Given their proximity to the treatment plant and city parks that could also use reclaimed water for irrigation, the leading candidates among campuses to possibly be among the first to irrigate from purple pipe are Sierra High, Brock Elliott, and Stella Brockma,.

The district has a water conservation committee that was formed six years ago. The committee’s primary objective is to increase efficiency and preserve water while raising awareness among staff, students, and the community.

The committee’s goal is to keep playing fields and landscaping in good shape while ensuring the district’s economic stability and serving as environmental stewards of water resources.

The directives in place since 2009 include:

uEnsuring all plumbing leaks are reported and repaired immediately.

uGround watering should only be done between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. from April through October.

uWhen spray irrigating, ensure that water does not directly hit buildings.

uPlant native or warm-season grasses and drought-tolerant or water-efficient plants.

In addition outdated or damaged heads, valves, systems and controllers are replaced as budgets allow. Such improvements can significantly reduce water use when installed.

The district also periodically does a cost analysis of sinking its own shallow wells for campus irrigation as compared to using treated city water. It is a strategy similar to what the City of Manteca is deploying at a number of municipal parks. So far one school site within the city has been converted to a well.

In May water use at eight schools (Calla, Ethel Allen, Widmer, Lathrop Elementary, Lathrop High, Manteca High, New Vision, and Shasta) peaked at 15,800,000 gallons in 2009 and dropped down to 8,400,000 gallons in 2014. That trend held through the spring and summer months. In February of 2009, though, water use was slightly less than in 2014 when overall about 500,000 gallons were used. During winter, however, most water use is inside such as in bathrooms and cafeterias as irrigation is reduced to a bare minimum.