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Water play stays dry awaiting state
water play
The Library Park water play feature stays turned off while awaiting a state ruling. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Joanne Beattie would love to have the city turn back on the $450,000 interactive water play feature at Library Park on Tuesdays during the Market & Music in Manteca event so kids can have some cool fun.
The Manteca Chamber of Commerce executive director’s sentiments are shared by retiring City Manager Karen McLaughlin.
The problem is even though water supplies have improved somewhat there is still a drought emergency in effect and the fact Manteca’s water play feature doesn’t circulate water they need an OK from the state to turn it back on.
McLaughlin said city staff has gotten a verbal OK from a state Department of Water Resources employee but wants it in writing to make sure Manteca doesn’t get dinged by another agency. She noted a staff member is calling on a weekly basis. Last week the city employee was told by the state worker that they couldn’t find the information they had previous sent about the water play feature and asked to have it resent.
Once the city gets a written OK, McLaughlin said it was her intent to turn the water play feature back on for limited times during special events or when it is hot.
The decision — if the state ever gives Manteca written authorization to use the water play feature that runs afoul with the drought ban on all such features that don’t recirculate water — will be up to her successor Elena Reyes who took over as city manager this week.
Ripon has turned back on the Mistlin Sports Park water play feature. The interactive water feature uses up to 2,000 of gallons per day. The Ripon water feature is now operating Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’ll go to a two-day a week schedule, Saturday and Sunday, once classes resume in August. The water play feature will be shut down in the fall and winter months beginning on Nov. 1.
McLaughlin has said the city’s dilmmea — should the state provide written OK to turn the play feature back on — is the amount of water it uses.
The water play feature used 2 million gallons of water in 2009. That’s roughly the equivalent of the water use of 33 Manteca households for an entire year.
Possible limitations if the city is given approval may be allowing it to be used on days when the temperature is above 90 degrees, restricting hours, limiting it to weekends or weekdays or only allowing it on for special events such as the Tuesday night farmers markets in the summer.
Should the state say the water feature has to be retrofitted to recirculate water or use reclaimed water, it creates two big issues – one financially and one politically.
Preliminary estimates to upgrade the water feature to a treated reticulating system ranges from $450,000 to $500,000. That means to use the water play feature again the country would have to spend as much — or more — than they paid to build it eight years ago.
A big portion of the cost is for a mini treatment plant for the water.
And a new state regulation adds another cost that, while small, has the potential to create enormous political issues as the city struggles to address the homeless problem.
The state is now requiring water play features that are put in place with recirculating systems to have showers installed.
That’s because in case the treatment system fails or goes off line, children can shower after using the water play feature.
The state is concerned that it isn’t usual for young kids when they are playing in water to pee in their swimsuits. That would mean — if the treatment system doesn’t work — kids could be frolicking in water mixed with pee.
How that squares with kids inadvertently peeing in public swimming pools such as at Lincoln Park isn’t clear. While those using public swimming pools are required to use showers before entering the water, they could very easily come in contact with water that has been peed in by others. Also the health issues connected may not be that drastic as there is no requirement at this time that existing water play features such as at Mistlin Park in Ripon that already recirculate water would have to add showers.
Having such showers in place at the play feature at Library Park could  attract homeless to use them as showers as has happened in other cities.
Turlock, which doesn’t have showers at its Broadway Splash Park south of downtown, does have a feature with three elevated buckets that tip over once they are filled up drenching whoever is below. Back in 2006 the homeless were flocking to the park to take showers under the buckets until the city was able to get rules in place limited the use of the park to those 12 and under while at the same time putting pressure on the homeless not to use it.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email