Technically — and legally — Manteca households can’t revert to watering landscaping until Oct. 19.
That’s because the municipal ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council Tuesday to make that happen under state law requires a second vote and then a 30-day period before it goes into effect.
In the meanwhile, City Manager Toni Lundgren Thursday said municipal staff will not cite anyone that waters a third day.
“It is clear what the (City Council) wants done,” Lundgren said.
An unless three of the council members flip their vote on the second reading of the ordinance likely to take place Sept. 19, it will be legal to water three days a week starting Oct. 19.
Based on comments from a dozen residents, the council decision is being viewed in two general ways.
First — and by far the biggest comments — is why did the city take so long to go back to three-day-a week watering when neighboring cities such as Ripon and Lathrop allowed it at the start of the summer before landscaping took a beating in the heat.
Also, a sizeable minority believed the city shouldn’t have dropped the two-day-a-week watering schedule, believing it sends the wrong long-term message about the overall state of water supplies in California including Manteca.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 24, 2023 revoked most of his emergency drought proclamations of the last two years. That included rescinding a March 2022 order requiring urban water suppliers such as Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon to enforce conservation measures such as limiting outdoor watering and penalizing water wasters.
That said, the governor made it clear that ending “the emergency” didn’t mean California wasn’t still in a prolonged drought cycle as established by historic hydrology trends.
As an example, weather experts warn nature’s roll of the dice could mean below normal precipitation next winter and in subsequent years as has happened after previous above average winters.
Lundgren noted there were several things in play regarding the timing.
*The city needed to assess its own situation in terms of water supplies.
*Cities aren’t on the same timetable as the state and aren’t required to act in lockstep unless a statewide emergency is declared.
*There was language in the municipal ordinance governing water use that needed to be updated such as eliminating the requirement that people needed to secure city permits to use water to clean driveways and such. There are rules, however, governing such water use still in place minus the permit requirement.
Lundgren said the city had “extensive” staff discussions on deciding what to do.
Those questioning the city’s decision regarding watering days contending it sends the wrong message and that it signals Manteca is backing off the goal of wise water use, aren’t having their concerns ignored.
Mayor Gary Singh — who gained council consensus in the first place to direct staff to weigh going back to three day a week watering — is also pushing for the city to explore ways to keep reducing water use.
In doing so, he wants options explored that can sharpen the looks of the community and improve the quality of life while further conserving water.
Among options he’s mentioned that are worth exploring:
*Significantly stepping up the city’s turf replacement program.
*Possibly ending all grass in the front yards of new homes or only allowing low-water use grasses that are either native or otherwise better suited to California’s Mediterranean climate.
*Using recycled wastewater for irrigating large expanses of parks and such.
“We need to look at requiring more drought resistant landscaping for new development,” Singh said. “People (moving here to buy new homes) need to get use to it . . . It is harder to ask them to give up their lawns later.”
Outdoor water use accounts for more than half of the water use of Central Valley cities like Manteca where the summers are long, hot and dry.
And in Manteca, irrigating lawns is the No. 1 biggest use of water.
Much of the lawn area is considered “nonfunctional.”
That is not a reference to how grass as vegetation works in an ecological system, but the fact it isn’t used except for eye-candy in most front yards.
The mayor said the city is now in the position to be able to allow more outside watering without jeopardizing municipal water supplies in the near future.
Singh also noted that the city’s pending new rule “is a maximum” in terms of how many days you can water.
“People can still water their lawns only two days a week and not three,” Singh said.
One resident indicated she is sticking with watering two days. She has been complying with the city’s directive not to have runoff and watering on just two days a week.
In doing so, her grass has stayed green.
It has involved no longer cutting the grass as low as she once did. She also has timers set on the two days she waters to come on for 5 minutes in the early morning and 5 minutes in the late evening.
The decision to go back to three days in terms of laws governing ordinances was unlike the original switch to two days when the June 2022 drought emergency was declared and went into effect immediately.
That’s because the previous change to the municipal code was written as an emergency ordinance. It garnered the four-fifths vote to basically eliminate the 45-day delay between the initial decision and it becoming law.
In regards to landscape watering in Manteca.
*It is allowed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at street addresses ending in an even number officially starting Oct. 19. (The watering days are now Tuesday and Saturday)
*It is allowed on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at street addresses ending in an odd number officially starting Oct. 19. (The watering days are now Sunday and Wednesday)
*It is banned at any location between the hours of noon to 6 p.m. on any day.
*Is prohibited at all locations and all times on Monday. The following areas — and/or situations — are not subject to watering limitations:
*All locations within 30 days of new landscape installation.
*Manteca public golf course, city parks, the City Hall complex, and Manteca Unified School District landscaping.
*Private parks or other landscaped areas larger than four acres.
*Landscape irrigation exclusively using drip irrigation and/or micro spray irrigation systems.
The washing or vehicles and boats are not allowed except:
*By use of a quick-acting positive shut-off nozzle on the hose or a bucket and sponge.
*At a commercial car wash.
Other restrictions include
*Restaurants can only serve water at the request of a customer.
*Irrigation water is not allowed that causes water runoff onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
*Using potable water in decorative water features that do not recirculate the water is not allowed.
*Hotels and motels must offer their guests the option to not have their linens and towels laundered daily, and prominently display the option in each guest room.
*The washing of sidewalks, driveways, patios, parking lots, aprons or other non-landscaped exterior ground area using water is not allowed, except for the purpose of maintaining the area in a clean, safe and sanitary condition.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email [email protected]