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Time to take conservation of water to next level in Manteca
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Pray for rain.

If enough doesn’t come in the coming months Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop and the rest of California will get a taste of real water wars.

Down in Clovis they have issued more than $500,000 in fines for water violations ranging from illegal lawn watering to not reducing their personal water use enough.

The drought without a doubt is real and serious. And after four years of drawing down reservoirs we’re to the point that if we have 3.1 times the precipitation in the coming “rainy season” that we had last year, we won’t be in any better shape on Sept. 30, 2016 than we are now.

Clovis’ magic number as dictated by the state was a 36 percent reduction over 2013 water use levels. The city has come close to reaching that goal with a 32.5 percent cutback in August.

But it’s not enough. With the state threatening $10,000 a day fines for districts and cities that fail to meet their goals, local jurisdictions have no choice but to bring down the hammer.

That’s where things can get dicey — and ugly — real fast.

Thanks to water meters cities know your water use history. That’s good but also bad.

They know how much water you consumed but have no idea about other details.

For example, are their more people living at your house today than two years ago? Perhaps you’ve had a baby, a parent has moved in, or others are living with you. So if you had three people under your roof in 2013 and four people today you’d have to cut water use by 25 percent despite having 25 percent more people in your household or else face a fine.

And what if you reduced outside watering ahead of the curve by replacing water hogging grass two or three years ago? Imposing a 25 percent cut back that comes attached with a $25 fine for not meeting it the first time and $50 for each subsequent failure seems a bit unfair given you were already being prudent.

If this is based on limited resources of which water definitely is these days, is it fair that someone who has a swimming pool and perhaps a larger yard with more grass which means they have a significantly higher per capita water consumption record than people living in a modest duplex with xeriscape get to live with the same 25 percent cutback?

Fines imposed in such a manner thanks to endless variables make it quite possible that those that use the least water will get hammered the most with fines.

Clovis applied their mandatory customer water cutback across the board to cover everyone including businesses. But if places like restaurants don’t have large expanses of grass they can let go they are going to hard time meeting the cutback unless they do what is happening in Fort Bragg. The City Council in that city has ordered restaurants and hotels to use disposal plates and flatware and not serve water unless it is requested.

Manteca has missed the state mandate on water conservation now for three months after hitting it in June. Public Works Director Mark Houghton is expecting a warning letter any day from the state.

Manteca needs to get ahead of the curve unless they want to enjoy issuing $500,000 in fines for households and businesses not cutting back enough.

It’s time to ask the citizens water conservation committee to come up with more ways to reduce water use as well as fire up an aggressive education campaign.

The urgency isn’t less because winter is approaching and the promise of an El Nino weather pattern that may or may not deliver. A normal year of rainfall would out us deeper in the hole next October. Having 3.1 times the precipitation we had this past year should keep us even. Another severe drought year would be devastating.

The more we delay taking water conservation to the next level — whatever that may be — we will be setting the stage for mandatory draconian measures. And one of them, whether you like it or not, is shutting down growth.

That would not be a good thing. Developers may benefit from growth but so do a lot of other people employed because Manteca has been growing by 1,000 residents plus a year in a wide array of fields beyond the construction sector from retail and restaurants to service businesses.

But if Manteca can’t meet the 32 percent cutback as mandated by the state, why should everyone living here already pay the price? Manteca’s population has grown by 3 percent since 2013. Take the additional households away and instead of being 28.2 percent in water savings in September we may have been at 29 percent.

That doesn’t seem like a big difference but every additional water user you add reduces the per capita consumption the state is allowing.

The right solution has everyone stepping up their game and maybe even the city doing water audits to help people find leaky pipes and figure a way that can assist those that can’t afford spending money upfront.

If you aren’t winning the game you need to knuckle down and take your play to the next level.

That is exactly what Manteca needs to do with water conservation.

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.