The City of Oakley has been working with the Diablo Water District to develop a plan that will comply with the water use restrictions recently set by the District. The plan, developed by Oakley’s Parks and Landscape Division, will affect some of the most visible property in the City; over 105 acres of developed park land in the system, almost 40 acres of unimproved park land and open spaces, and approximately 57 acres of landscaped street medians, planters, and streetscapes, including just under 10,000 trees. The visual impact on our community will be noticeable.
What follows is the general framework of an initial action plan to guide the Parks and Landscape Division in its planning and management response to the drought. It identifies activities and strategies to be implemented and is seen as a tool that will be amended and added to as the City moves forward. The plan was presented to the City Council during the May 12, 2015 Council meeting. The whole report is available online.
Compliance with Diablo Water District Water Use Policy and Prohibitions:
- 28-40% reduction in (gross/overall) of POTABLE water usage
- No washing down sidewalks, surfaces etc. with potable water
- No Excess run-off (Not including overspray due to wind)
- No decorative fountains, unless on re-circulatory system (Nunn-Wilson and Creekside Spray Fountains are CLOSED)
- Irrigation limited to 3 days per week; Twice on the day maximum
- No irrigation within 48 hours after measurable rain
- No irrigating between 9 am – 5 pm
Fountains and Spray Features:
The spray fountain features at Nunn-Wilson Family Park and Creekside Park, along with the individual spray feature poles at Shady Oak Park and Cypress Grove Park are CLOSED.
The two City decorative fountains, one located at the City Hall Civic Center, and the other at the Oakley Plaza Shopping Center, are both on re-circulating systems. There is some water loss due to overspray and evaporation. Operating hours for the Oakley Plaza Fountain has been reduced to only operate daily between 5 pm and 8 pm, and 11 :30 am- 8 pm on weekends.
Computerized Central Control Irrigation System (in-progress):
As with many operational areas, the advancement of technology has opened the door to increased water efficiency. This month the City brought on-line a sophisticated, centrally controlled, computerized irrigation system that allows communication to currently 26 (and about 100 in the coming months) irrigation controllers in the field or from the office. It provides the highest irrigation efficiencies in the landscape industry.
The weather station operates in conjunction with the Central Control Irrigation System through continual weather data collection using evapotranspiration rates, commonly known as “ET,” which is the loss of water from the soil surface into the atmosphere. The system automatically adjusts irrigation schedules to match actual landscape water requirements and will terminate (or pause) irrigating during rain or higher winds.
Staff can make immediate changes to the programs without having to go to individual sites and programming each controller. The technology detects problems and provides alerts immediately of breaks or leaks, and automatically shuts problem areas down until repairs are made. This system covers about 40% of our landscaped areas. Older parks and landscaped areas are not equipped and can possibly be included in this program if funding becomes available.
Mulch will be added where needed around plants and trees to keep plant roots cool, minimize evaporation, and reduce weeds.
Moisture Manager is a newer product being used on turf areas to reduce water use. The product captures and retains available moisture on the root surfaces, keeping some moisture that is consistently lost both to gravity (quickly in Oakley sandy soils) and evaporation. The City is testing the product to determine if it will be beneficial in cutting water usage and keeping turf sites greener.
Conversion of Ornamental Turf to Drought Tolerant Landscaping
Removing/Eliminating ornamental turf grass in numerous locations throughout the city will save both water and money. Grass looks nice, but requires significant amounts of water and is more costly to maintain. The landscape conversion process involves removing the turf, changing the irrigation to low volume and/or low precipitation nozzles, installing attractive low-use, drought tolerant plants, and adding bark/mulch. The end result is new landscape which uses 40-50% less water than turf, and less labor and cost to maintain. Water will be shut off and turf will be allowed to die now, with conversions scheduled to occur in the Fall, when less water will be needed for the plant establishment. The following is a list of sites where this conversion process will take place:
- Civic Center Park (Stopped irrigating portion of no-mow grass. Renovate in future)
- Oakley Town Center (Lucky’s) Shopping Center street perimeter
- Claremont Bay Park (eliminate turf)
- Heather Park (Stop irrigating turf. Renovate in future)
- Harvest Park (eliminate turf)
- Marsh Creek Park (eliminate portions of turf)
- Gull View Court walkway
- Snowy Egret Court walkway
- Merganser Court walkway
- East Cypress Road (lower priority)
- Main Street (west side, north and south of Shady Oak Drive)
- Shady Oak Drive (north and south sides from Main Street to Morning Glory)
- Simoni Ranch Road (portions of north and south sides Main Street to Rose)
- Rose Ave (east side Simoni Ranch Road to Barn Dance Way)
- Brownstone (south side O’Hara east to end of subdivision)
- Neroly Road (north and south sides O’Hara east to end of subdivision)
- Heartwood Park (portions)
- Live Oak Ranch Park (portion)
- Simoni Ranch Park (portions)
- Riata Park (evaluate potential areas to be converted)
- Magnolia Trail (all turf along trail)
- Novarina Park (portions on non-use areas)
- Daffodil Park (evaluate potential areas to be converted)
- Sycamore Park (eliminate turf)
- Summer Lake Park (evaluate potential areas to be converted)
- Catamaran Park (moratorium on grass being installed at this time)
Potable and Non-Potable Water Use:
Non-potable water is not treated to drinking water standards and is not meant for human consumption. Non-potable water, such as raw (untreated) water from reservoirs, is used for irrigation and other purposes.
The Parks and Landscape Division uses both potable and non-potable water to irrigate parks and landscaping. Turf irrigation is the largest water user. In all instances potable water is used in restrooms, drinking fountains, and spray fountains.
Recognizing years ago that water is a limited resource and a major utility expense for irrigating parks and landscape, the City began efforts to install wells, when possible and practical, at parks when they are developed. This greatly saves on the potable water use consumption.
The prioritizing potable water use on park turf takes into consideration the issues of safety, use, cost, importance and/or newness of landscape, and aesthetics. Water resources will be directed first to higher priority sites. For simplification, we have categorized turf as either:
- Essential – high priority (includes active organized play or event locations);
- Non-Essential turf (and distinguished as to priority – Lower Priority and Lowest
Priority). Non-Essential turf areas will have their water reduced a minimum of
30%, up to 100% (off at a few select locations) by frequency, duration, and
Parks utilizing Non-Potable water (Exempt from State and District Provisions):
Parks utilizing Non-Potable water (Exempt from State and District Provisions):
**Note: Oakley Union Elementary School District also utilizes well water to irrigate its school grounds and school parks, such as O’Hara Park, Vintage Park, Gehringer Park, and Oakley Elementary School Park. Freedom High School also uses well water to irrigate its school grounds and ball fields.
As mentioned, the Parks and Landscape Division is responsible for an urban forest of just under 10,000 trees. The loss of trees can have detrimental effects to the community, including wildlife habitat loss, reduced air quality, reduced wind and shade, increased erosion, just to name a few.
New trees are regularly watered the first three years to establish the root systems. The Division does not wish to experience loss. Young trees will need to be monitored to determine if supplemental watering (with non-potable water) will be necessary so the tree’s growth will not be adversely affected. The general strategy will be to limit stress or loss of these valuable resources.
Planning and Design Opportunities (examples under consideration):
- Marsh Creek Glenn Park- Add a Y, basketball court
- Novarina Park- Install a sand volleyball court
- Other potential amenities whose additions would eliminate turf: Outdoor Fitness park component; Gazebo, etc.
- Explore potential use of artificial turf in certain circumstances/areas.
- Evaluate conversion of some irrigation to low precipitation nozzles, etc.
Other Practices and Strategies:
- Continue to encourage Oakley residents to inform the City of irrigation issues (leaks, breaks, etc.).
- Train/educate City employees to understand and be able to communicate with pubic about Potable versus non-Potable water; Difference in definition between overspray and excessive run-off; and the mandates.
- Any new planting projects will generally be delayed until the Fall and/or the drought conditions improve. Annual color planting may also be deferred.