Less than 48 hours before it had rained.
Yet there it was — sprinklers going full bore on one of the greenest lawns in Manteca.
And, yes, water was flowing down the gutter. It fact a stream had managed to go a good 30 or so feet away from the closet edge of the lawn.
Making matters worse, within 24 hours another strong storm would start dropping rain on Manteca.
So who was the offender? None other than the City of Manteca.
The lawn in question wasn’t a public park that gets a pass for obvious reasons although watering in the middle of a wet weather front is a tad over the top. The superfluous — and wasteful watering — was taking place at 1 o’clock Saturday morning in front of the Powers Avenue Fire Station.
It illustrates exactly what is wrong with Manteca’s half-hearted water conservation effort.
By half-hearted, I’m not talking about most of Manteca’s residents. I’m referencing the powers that be at City Hall.
Even if we have 120 percent of a normal weather year when it comes to precipitation in the Stanislaus River watershed, we have been told by experts that our water storage situation on Sept. 30, 2016 would be no better than it was just 75 days ago when New Melones Reservoir was at a record low. It will take a number of above average years to break the accumulative impact of four years of severe drought assuming this year’s strong rain and snow start doesn’t peter out. Keep in mind, however, that tree rings — the best historic evidence we have of rain and snow trends over the centuries — have shown mega-droughts of 50 years or more have been interrupted by one or two back-to-back wet years.
Groundwater pumping has dropped water tables and also increased the concentration of concerns such as uranium. While the newer federal standards may be overkill, lowering the levels of naturally occurring uranium is a requirement. The city has put in expensive treatment systems on some wells and is using surface water from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District for blending on other wells to be in compliance. It’s clear that as groundwater levels drop uranium levels will continue to increase.
Then there is the issue of water needed to sustain growth.
Manteca must do better, but its leadership may lack the will and the conviction to do so.
The City Council concurred with staff to carve out an exception for restricted day watering for the Civic Center complex that is definitely not a park. When this was pointed out, the answer was “it would be too inconvenient” for city staff to work around the odd-even address rules plus the fact people might get wet walking to meetings at city hall.
How is it to inconvenient for the city but not everyone else? As for people getting wet, they shouldn’t walk on the grass.
And let’s talk about inconvenience for a second. There are folks in Manteca that actually use buckets to save shower and bath water to repurpose it to irrigate their lawns and garden. If it is inconvenient to adjust timers on sprinkler systems at City Hall, then what do you call what some households are doing — sacrifices?
You lead by example. You don’t lead by edict and then make exceptions for yourself because you can.
In the neighborhoods around the Powers Avenue fire station a number of residential lawns were stressed — read that turning yellow — complying with city water conservation rules. The recent spate of rain has charged yellow to green without the help of sprinklers.
How difficult would it be for the city to turn off sprinklers at the fire station and city hall until at least the end of January or until it doesn’t rain for two or three consecutive weeks. Oh, I forgot. That would be too inconvenient.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.