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Residents save water, City recycles it

Mike Conway

Post Date:09/29/2015

For immediate release

Merced makes huge water conservation savings

Recycled water now in use, water use down 44%, park watering 2x week

While the hope is that El Nino will drench the state this year, the reality is that the impact of the four-year drought will last for years. Some plants ' especially water-loving species -- have had a hard time during the prolonged dry spell and need more than one wet winter to recover.

The City and its residents have done a good job of cutting water use, especially in outdoor irrigation. Conservation, new watering methods and changes in landscaping have helped the City cut back water use by up to 44 percent.

In the month of July 2013, the City pumped 1,197 million gallons of water. This July, the City water wells pumped 666 million gallons of water.

The conservation efforts have helped allow the City to step up watering of neighborhood parks from once a week to twice a week.  The extra water won't turn the lawns as lush as a Scottish golf course, but they will make it more fun for fall picnickers and soccer practices.

But while residents and businesses have conserved, continued, long-term conservation efforts are needed to preserve our precious water resources. The City began its water conservation program in 1992, and continues to add to it and refine it through the years.

Recycled Water now in use

Residents also will start seeing more City watering trucks on the streets with little purple signs proclaiming: Recycled Water in Use, Do Not Drink.

The water normally would pour into Hartley Slough and nourish our wetlands, but instead some is going to feed our local park landscaping. The City also will use it to flush sewer lines and for street sweeping.

The City's Recycled Water Program will be growing in the near future to allow people in the private sector to take advantage of the water source to irrigate trees, gardens, vegetables and lawns, wash cars or outdoor surfaces such as paths, walls or windows.

More water available for stressed trees

Recycled water is perfect for all the drought-stressed trees in our urban forest. In the last four years there has been a higher than normal loss of trees and landscape plantings due to the drought. Some of it is because of Mother Nature and some of it is because of poor plant selection.

For example, redwoods have been planted in many parks and private yards in Merced because they are fast-growing and attractive. They thrive when there is lots of moisture, but Merced is a hot, dry climate, and redwoods are not a species native to the area. They are sensitive to the lack of rain, and many are expected to die due to the drought. A much more suitable tree for the region is the deodor cedar or the incense cedar.

City landscaping crews are actively seeking drought-impacted trees in our parks and giving them extra water trying to make up for the moisture that nature isn't providing. The Recycled Water Program will provide that water.

The City has been actively conserving water in other ways:

The Merced Fire Department now saves all the water from its fire hydrant flushing program and using it to water our urban forest. It also saves the water from training exercises to water landscaped areas.

Median and park strips are being converted to drip irrigation systems as part of the City's long-term conservation efforts..

Olive Avenue was constructed with a drip system, so no conversion was necessary.

Converted to drip systems were:

Yosemite Avenue, R Street to El Redondo

Yosemite Avenue, San Jose to R Street

R Street , Donna Drive to Yosemite Avenue

G Street, west side, north of El Portal to Yosemite Avenue (maintenance district)

Yet to be converted to drip systems are:

G Street, Bear Creek to El Portal

El Redondo, Santa Monica to Sarasota

Remaining street landscaping strips in Merced during the year as staff and budget allows

The on-going message: Conserve, conserve, conserve

The City is still encouraging residents and businesses to conserve water both indoors and out. In May the City Council approved spending more than $3 million to install water meters for the half of Merced homes that did not have meters. A look at water consumption trends in Merced showed that homes without water meters tended to use about twice as much water as those with a meter.

There have been 6,100 water meters installed since June in the City. A $2.5 million state grant has helped pay for some of the City's water meter program. The conversion to water meters is expected to be completed by Spring 2016.

Since 2011 the City has had a fulltime Water Conservation Specialist to help educate the public on how to save water and to look out for people wasting water. The City has held education workshops with Master Gardeners and extensive media campaigns to teach the public on how to conserve water.

The City Council also reduced the number of outdoor watering days from three to two last year as a conservation measure. Businesses and homes with odd addresses can water on Wednesdays and Sundays and those with even addresses can water on Tuesdays and Saturdays. There is no outdoor watering allowed between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Learn more @

For water conservation ideas and tips, go to and

To report water wasters, call 209-388-SAVE.

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