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Water: Outlook not good
New Melones marina pulling up stakes by October
Water from sprinklers overflows onto a Manteca sidewalk and into the gutter on Wednesday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

A streak of sub-90 degree days has Public Works Director Mike Houghton concerned.

He’s the man responsible for overseeing Manteca’s municipal water system.

“My worry is the cooler weather will get people to thinking they don’t have to conserve as much,” Houghton said. “We are still in the middle of a severe drought.”

And while Manteca residents stepped up in June and cut water use back by 20.4 percent over June 2013 levels, the outlook is not good.

• Much of the Stanislaus River from McHenry Recreation Area to the San Joaquin River is down to three feet or less.

• Some are predicting the Stanislaus will be virtually dry by mid-October just before it flows into the San Joaquin River.

• The level of the Truckee River flowing out of Lake Tahoe has dropped to the point rafting will no longer be possible in the next few days. 

• The operator of the marina at New Melones Reservoir — the third largest reservoir in California — will cease rental operations after the Labor Day weekend. They are preparing to remove the docks, private slips, and take houseboats out of the lake by Oct. 1. The lake currently holds 657,570 acre feet of water in a reservoir with a capacity of 2.4 million acre feet. It is expected to reach a record low approaching 300,000 acre feet by this fall.

• The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is prepared to cut off the valves they control sending treated surface water to Manteca, Tracy, and Lathrop if they use more than 80 percent of what water they received in August and September of 2013 with the corresponding months this year.

• The SSJID has notified farmers the irrigation season will end on Sept. 30, at least 15 days earlier than normal due to tight water supplies.

• More than 430,000 acres of California farmland that usually produces crops is now fallow as there is no water for irrigation.

Figures compiled by the Public Works Department shows Manteca’s June consumption was 502 million gallons. Besides being 20.4 percent less than June 2013 when Manteca residents used 631 million gallons, June is one of the three heaviest months for water consumption following July and August due to landscaping demands in hot weather.

Houghton noted the city will meet the SSJID’s mandatory 20 percent reduction for water use in August and September by relying more on the city’s 15 municipal wells.

Water experts are asking those with lawns to be especially prudent. Of water used in urban areas over half of it is used for landscaping.  And to the portion that is used outdoors experts say close to 60 percent is used for lawns.

Ways of cutting back water use for lawns includes irrigating before sunrise, reducing the length of time for irrigation, and not cutting grass short.  All three strategies help to reduce water use without the need to stop watering a lawn altogether.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin said there are not any plans in the works to require new construction to replace front yard lawns with landscaping that uses less water. She indicated it is a policy decision that would have to come from the City Council for staff to devote the time needed to draft and put in place standards for landscaping on new construction that requires less water.

McLaughlin noted that the city has made a concerted effort to reduce water consumption in recent years by selecting plants, trees, and shrubs that require less water for landscape maintenance districts. Park designs have also been altered to reduce water use as much as possible.