Three days before Manteca must comply with a state mandate to cease watering all non-essential turf with potable water the City Council is posed to approve a $315,000 three-year contract for a landscaping firm to maintain some of that grass.
While the grass in question will likely be yellow by month’s end and a mixture of brown and dirt as the summer drags on, Interim City Manager Toni Lundgren noted those turf areas in question that will die still need to be maintained so they don’t turn into unsightly weed-infested areas.
Such areas include the lawn in front of the Civic Center as well as adjacent to the Manteca Library on the southwest corner of Sycamore Avenue and Center Street.
There are 18 locations throughout the city where municipal property is being cared for by Cagwin & Doeward landscape maintenance services. Staff is recommending they be awarded a three-year contract to continue to do the work.
The services they provide include – but are not limited to — tree care, turf care, ground cover, weed and pest control, and general cleanup for city properties.
The city started contracting out landscape maintenance of smaller city properties outside of park areas to private concerns to save money. It has allowed the city to avoid hiring staff that requires adding to its unfunded pension liability.
City crews maintain larger areas such as parks that are used extensively by the public.
Manteca — like other local jurisdictions throughout California — have been ordered by Sacramento starting June 10 to no longer allow the use of drinking water to irrigate non-essential turf connected with institutions such as government facilities, schools and such as well as churches, business parks, and commercial area. Landscaped areas along streets that are part of established landscape maintenance districts also will not be allowed to be irrigated if portable water is used.
Trees can be watered on such grassy areas in a manner that doesn’t irrigate the grass.
Non-potable water not suitable for drinking that is typically either treated recycled wastewater or water taken from wells near the ground level that typically have issues can be used to irrigate turf the city has been banned from keeping alive by the use of potable water.
In Manteca’s case that includes Tidewater landscaped irrigated from non-potable well water. The same goes for landscaping at the Stadium Retail Center anchored by Kohl’s that uses non-potable water from a well that keeps the fields and grass areas outside of the Big League Dreams sports complex green.
The city also uses non-potable wells for some city parks where the state continues to allow the use of potable water for now to irrigate turf. The same goes for the municipal golf course although it is not clear if non-potable water is used to keep the grassy area in front of the clubhouse and along Union Road green.
There are exemptions to the turf watering ban. Areas used for recreation such as sports, golf courses, playing fields, and parks are exempted from the ban. So are lawns connected with homes.
If the drought deepens and the water supply becomes even more precarious, the state’s adopted drought strategy calls for portable water to be eliminated for those uses as well.
Lundgren said staff is working on how it will enforce the state ordered ban that impacts privately owned commercial and retail property as well as that at school site. The ban is designed to deal with California’s acute drought.
At the same time the interim city manager said long-range replacement of non-essential turf areas in the city with hardscape or drought resistant landscape that consists of shrubs and such that are water misers is an expensive proposition.
While she doesn’t see replacement in the near future, Lundgren said it is something that will be looked at doing eventually.
Lundgren stressed the city will work to make the areas where turf has to be allowed to die help weather the drought to be as presentable as possible.
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