Mark Houghton has a lot of explaining to do.
Manteca’s public works director is in the unenviable position of trying to communicate to the city’s 75,000 residents that have just weathered the biggest storm in a decade that the Northern San Joaquin Valley — as well as 90 percent of California — is still in the grip of a drought that’s now in in its sixth year.
As of Jan. 1, the National Weather Service’s Sacramento staff indicated the Central Sierra watershed — that includes the Stanislaus River Basin that Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon rely on as well as Yosemite National Park — needs 96.53 inches of water by Sept. 30 to completely break the drought’s back.
The region averages 40.8 inches of precipitation based on annual readings at Calaveras Big Trees, Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park headquarters, North Fork in Madera County and Huntington Lake. The weather year started with a 114.05-inch precipitation deficit from the previous five years. Before the current storm system hit, the average rainfall accumulated as measured by the five stations for the first three months of the water year that started Oct. 1 was 17.7 inches.
“. . . One good storm doesn’t end the drought,” Houghton noted. “A couple more and maybe we are there, but in any case, water conservation and responsible use of water will always be an issue. Hence City efforts to conserve water will continue, and residents should be applauded for their efforts to conserve and wisely use this precious resource.”
Houghton issued the drought reminder this week as his staff continued working on plans to:
uprovide state-mandated 200-year flood protection for the southwest sector of the city.
uharness treated wastewater to irrigate parks and other landscaping.
uestablish a state required groundwater basin plan so the city essentially doesn’t pump more water than is replenished in a given year.
ucomply with federal requirements to minimize storm run-off.
uoversee the dwelling of replacement wells.
At the same time Manteca is backing efforts by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to fight a state plan that would increase unimpaired water flows on the Stanislaus River to 40 percent to fight Delta salinity and for fish from February to June at the expense of municipal surface water supplies, farm production, and area jobs.
Manteca ended 2016 using 27 percent less water than the city did in 2016. The state selected 2016 as the baseline year to set community-level conservation goals aimed at reducing overall water use in California by 20 percent. Manteca just missed its state assigned goal of a 28 percent cutback.
Month-to-month comparisons saw Manteca use 25 percent less water in December of 2016 than in December 2013. That number primarily reflects indoor usage as landscape irrigation — that accounts for more than half of the city’s water use — is almost non-existent.
Manteca has reduced water consumption by 20% since 2006 despite adding 12,000 residents. The city used 4,675 millions of gallons of water in 2006 compared to 3,759 million of gallons in 2016.
That reflects a conservation trend that Manteca started long before Sacramento became concerned about stepping up efforts to reduce water use.
While part of the savings is reflected in low-flow, high-efficiency toilets as well as water efficient washing machines that are among the top three residential indoor uses of water along with showers and baths, much of it came from the city’s effort to switch irrigation of its 300 plus acres of parkland from the domestic water system to shallower wells that tap non-potable water. The primary driving force was to reduce the water bill the parks department incurs from the inter-department charges for treated water. It also reduced the need for dropping deeper and more expensive drinking water wells and expanding the portion of Manteca’s water from the surface water treatment plant. It also had the bonus impact of increasing water pressure given park irrigation takes place over night and also in the early morning hours when people are hitting bathrooms preparing for the day.
The year-end water consumption report shows another favorable trend for Manteca. Since Manteca started using treated surface water from the Stanislaus River Basin in 2005 the reliance on groundwater that is now targeted for by the state to keep at a set level has continually dropped. During the last three years surface water has accounted for nearly 60 percent of overall use.
Groundwater pumping is almost at a third of what it was in the peak year of 2004.
Having surface water allowed Manteca to avoid installing several specialized treatment plants on well heads after federal standards on arsenic — which occurs naturally in water — were tightened significantly. The much cleaner surface water is blended with the well water to exceed the new federal standards, besides avoid upfront costs it also eliminated a $500,000 charge per well every two years to replace elaborate filters.
Manteca’s water rules
The stricter water rules that have been in place for Manteca residents and businesses for 18 months are as follows:
uNo irrigation is allowed during or within 48 hours following measurable rainfall as defined by storms that generate run-off or puddles.
uNo watering is allowed on Monday or any day between noon and 6 p.m. Watering for even addresses is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while odd addresses can water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
uNo water will be allowed on any day at any time for washing off sidewalks, driveways, patios, parking lots or other exterior non-landscaped areas without a permit obtained from the Manteca Public Works Department office at the Civic Center.
uNo water will be allowed to flow into a gutter or other drainage area for longer than 5 minutes. All water leaks or malfunctions in plumbing or irrigation systems must be fixed with 24 hours.
Penalties include a written notice on the first violation, a $100 fine with applicable fees on the second violation that may be waived by attending a water conservation workshop a $200 fine and applicable fees on the third violation; and $500 fines for each and every subsequent violation plus applicable fees.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org