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Mantecas dragging feet on dealing with drought may spur big push for a building moratorium
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They have taken out the lawn in their back yard and replaced it with brick and sand as well as a water fountain that sits bone dry.

They’ve adjusted how they wash dishes and do their laundry to save water.

When they are through hosting a stop on the Manteca Garden Cub tour in May they plan to take out a wide swath of the front lawn on their corner lot in the neighborhood north of Cowell School and replace it with river rock.

And they’ve reduced watering their front lawn to twice a week, three minutes each time.

Yet they are being held up as water wasters because the way the city required the firm that developed their neighborhood to grade their lot. The lawn at the corner has a significant slope with the top of the grass nearly three inches above the edge of the  concrete. Turn the water on for 30 seconds no matter how well directed the sprinklers are and there is a steady stream running over the sidewalk and into the gutter.

The couple doesn’t want their name used as they have gotten unwanted and undeserved notoriety as water wasters as Manteca and the rest of California moves deeper into the fourth year of a severe drought that hydrologists warn could be the start of one of the mega-droughts that have plagued the West over the course of the last 1,000 years.

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Anonymous note left on their door

Last week they retrieved an anonymous note at their door advising them they were wasting water and that they should adjust their sprinklers and not water so long as there is water running down the gutter. The note also asked, “Did you know there is an extreme water shortage problem state wide?

The Bulletin then published a series of photos submitted by readers showing flooded gutters around town that included their home. The photo of their water running off into the gutter from their lawn was used with a Bulletin story concerning residents hoping Manteca would hire people to serve on water patrols to educate people in regards to conservation abuses and issue citations when necessary.

The published photos prompted at least three people to pass their home and chide them about wasting water.

The couple deserves an apology as things don’t always appear as they seem.

But as they pointed out along with a growing chorus of their fellow Manteca residents, there is sheer lunacy when it comes to water use in this city thanks, in a large part, to municipal regulations.

They don’t get why existing residents are letting lawns die, resorting to repurposing water from showers and sink use by deploying buckets to comply with water conservation requests by the city and state yet Manteca allows new homes to be built complete with water guzzling front lawns. Here’s some advice the Manteca City Council might want to consider: Require drought-resistant landscaping for all new construction as an emergency measure starting April 7. What people are saying could very well lay the groundwork for a grassroots campaign to force the city into a building moratorium if new homes continued to be landscaped in a manner that wastes water on large swaths of front yard grass mandated by the city.

They certainly don’t get why the city required the developer to slope their front yard so severely and then have an ordinance in place prohibiting water from running into the gutter for five minutes when there is no way to stop it from doing so.

Yes, city ordinances and rules often contradict each other such as keeping your grass and landscaping green while the state pushes for stepped up water conservation.

And they certainly don’t get how someone they passed twice during an hour walk was still watering their lawn by hand which was 20 times longer than they were doing but apparently that doesn’t raise the wrath of anyone.

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Are city ordinances worth paper they are printed on?

They happen to think it might be good for the city to have water “cops” to educate people — and when there is no compliance effort  being made — to cite them.

Water patrols may be a better word since “water cops” conjure up images of folks hell-bent only on issuing citations.

Which brings us to the big question: If key municipal department heads and the City Council keep saying they don’t want to be water cops, then why bother to write and adopt any rules? They aren’t worth the paper they are printed on if there is no enforcement except, of course, by people with a conscious and sense of civic responsibility.

Let’s face it. If someone is hosing down their driveway and watering in the heat of the day when both are clearly prohibited in the middle of the worst California drought in modern history, either they need to be nudged awake or they have an “I don’t care” attitude.

Water patrols can nudge them awake. As far as the latter are concerned, they deserve to be cited and fined until such time as they get the message. 

Just because one can afford to waste water definitely doesn’t mean you should be allowed to do so. Looking out for the common good is the reason we supposedly have government.

If elected leaders and key bureaucrats don’t step up to conserve the essential resource of water that flows through our taps thanks to the pooling of community resources and aren’t willing to make sure people comply to restrictions, they are inviting anarchy, albeit a mild form.

Imagine how a resident who has let his lawn die, is living with mellow is yellow when it comes to flushing toilets, and has gone as far as using buckets to capture shower and sink water to repurpose will react in mid-July when he passes someone merrily hosing off their sidewalks and driveway with water after letting their sprinklers run for an hour in the middle of the day to create a stream running into storm drains.

And if you want to create a political revolution, wait until more and more Manteca residents who have been forced to let their lawns die discover they only did so in order for those buying $400,000 new homes to have lush green front lawns. People who have had to basically make major sacrifices to save water from taking shorter showers to letting plants die will have little stomach for arguments anyone may make to stop a grassroots campaign to impose a building moratorium.

If any elected leader doubts that, start asking around and see how many people think it is OK that new homes can have lush front lawns while they are faced with a possibility of their own lawns going to the wayside in the name of the common good.

The time for Manteca to act is now, not six months from now when it finally dawns on our leaders that 2016 could very well turn into a drought year as well.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.