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Millennials worried about our obsession with grass and not just type some smoke
Shown are two examples of xeriscape in front yards on Mono Street in southeast Manteca.

It is clear the Manteca Millennial Advisory Committee has a concern about grass.

I’m not talking about their belief it makes sense on a lot of levels — including economically — about Manteca allowing storefront sales of cannabis, the commercial cultivation in non-residential zones, and the transport from legal sellers to buyers.

I’m referring to the grass that Manteca and virtually the rest of California  refuses to wean itself off of —the non-native grass species that make up lawns that exist only for  ornamental purposes that threaten to suck the life out of the Golden State.

The committee appointed by the City Council consists of those between the ages of 24 and 40 known as millennials. In a few years not only will they represent the biggest demographic in Manteca and elsewhere but they will be slowly squeezing the Baby Boomers out of key leadership roles in government, corporate America and the community overall.

The committee is not about accelerating the extinction of the dinosaurs that some may perceive Baby Boomers to be. Instead council members formed the advisory committee in a bid to get a clear pulse of the vision the segment of the population that will eventually be bearing the greatest brunt as taxpayers as well as to use what makes sense to better position Manteca for the next 25 years. That would be done, theoretically, by finding ways to make Manteca more attractive for both millennials to want to live here as well as plant the seeds for millennial entrepreneurs to strength the city’s economy going forward to provide improved economic strength for all generations.

That’s not mumble jumble. It is a wise business plan for a city.

The millennial group known by its acronym MMAC has two expressed goals for grass that they want the city leadership to pursue.

*De-stigmatize the growing of habitats and crops in front yards while working with home owners associations to reduce the size of lawns.

*Increase the maximum density of dwelling units per acre for residential zones to reduce environmental impacts.

It is clear they are concerned about sustainability with both recommendations as well as economic viability. Growing some of your own food and reducing the cost of housing by increasing the density makes sense.

Both address an underlying problem that is key to all generations and our simple ability to survive and thrive which is water.

You can’t have maker spaces, green industries, a vibrant downtown, cultural celebrations that educate and assimilate, and great art without water. Actually you can’t have much of anything without water.

Right now the world is in frenzy about the upcoming squawking and preening next Thursday of two dinosaurs on a debate stage in Miami, COVID-19 and pandemic restrictions that are cratering the financial well-being of many, and the wildfires that are turning the Golden State into the Charred State.

But there is a reoccurring problem sneaking back into our lives that is more life and civilization altering than a presidential election, a pandemic, or mega-wildfires. Drought is returning once again as it has with predictable regularity over the last 700 years in the western United States.

Dendrochronology — the science of tree rings that zealous climate change neophytes either do not realize exists or dismisses a century of science re-enforced by carbon dating of tree rings ancient and otherwise because it doesn’t fit into their politically correct assumptions — is crucial to understand.

Tree ring science is easily to grasp and basic. It measures the ring width of growth in a year’s time. The smaller the width of the ring, the less water there was that year for a specific tree. The wider the ring, the more moisture that fell that year.

Thanks to multiple samples and carbon dating of petrified tree trunks such as at the bottom of Lake Tahoe, and preserved in other manners, as well as the oldest living things on earth — the twisted dead looking bristlecone pines that grace the higher elevations in the eastern Sierra and White Mountains that have survived for up to 14,000 years in a rain shadow — a clear hydrology picture can be assembled that predates the Europeans stepping foot on the land we now call the Americas.

Over the last seven centuries and longer mega-droughts of 50 years plus punctured by brief spells of wet years have been the norm in California. Scientists say the data points to 1780 to 1970 — the time period California was developed and water shifted out of basin to support growth where local water would have limited it — as being abnormally wet.

The latest data posted by the United States Department of Agriculture on its drought monitoring site as of Thursday lists 84.6 percent of California as being abnormally dry. Of that 67.5 percent — including Stanislaus County is in moderate drought. That also includes the watersheds of the Stanislaus, Merced, and the Tuolumne rivers that all of the Northern San Joaquin Valley including Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Escalon, Riverbank, and Oakdale rely on for surface water as well as to recharge underground aquifers.

Almost all of San Joaquin County is among 35.6 percent of the state that is classified as being in severe drought. None of the state was in the severe drought classification a year ago.

More than half of Manteca’s water goes to landscaping with lawns consuming most of that. Other landscaping — including shrubs and such that are not considered drought resistant — consume significantly less water.

Vary rarely do you see front yard lawns used for much more than to create a look. A few years back Manteca reduced the size of lawns allowed in the front yard requiring what area would have once been once planted in grass to be more of a xeriscape that can employ shrubs, ground cover and “hard elements” such as rocks and such.

Las Vegas — a city that clearly doesn’t want to gamble away its future with water waste — six years ago banned all lawns in front yards of new home construction. Grass is still allowed in back yards where it often serves a purpose besides looks by providing a play area for kids.

The city would do everyone a favor by adopting a number of the millennial advisory committee’s suggestions post haste but especially so when it comes to housing and the need to make front yard grass that is non-native and water guzzlers go away.