Fireworks, reflecting pools victims of continuing drought

04/24/2014 2:04 PM

04/24/2014 8:57 PM

The skies above Don Pedro will remain dark this Fourth of July. And visitors to Emanuel Medical Center will notice the hospital’s decorative pools have gone dry. Both are casualties of the region’s ongoing drought, which is resonating in ways large and small.

At Don Pedro, the Recreation Agency canceled the annual fireworks celebration after much consideration, manager Carol Russell said. It’s the first time in roughly 20 years the night skies above the reservoir won’t explode with light around the holiday. But the decision came amid concerns over safety and user satisfaction.

“With the lake down, the fallout area will be too congested with boats that are moored,” Russell said. In addition, only one launch ramp will be in the water. That would not feasibly serve the nearly 1,300 boats that take to the reservoir each year for the show.

It’s especially unfortunate to miss out this year, because July Fourth falls on a Friday. Typically, staff plans for the show on a weekend near the holiday when it lands midweek.

“We want people to at least be able to stay over,” Russell said. “It would have been a great day for it.”

As people are learning about the decision, the response has been disappointment mixed with understanding.

“It hasn’t been hugely negative,” Russell said. “I think for the most part, people understand that some things have to change.”

She pointed out that the reservoir still will have water, and many of the campgrounds will be open. Most folks are aware that the area has received only a little more than half of the 12 inches of rain that falls on average each year.

The agency will have another opportunity next year, when July Fourth falls on a Saturday. Assuming a wetter winter, there “absolutely” will be a fireworks show next year, Russell said.

The cancellation came on the heels of an announcement by the city of Modesto that splash areas at 10 of its parks will not operate this year, in an attempt to conserve water. Turlock will continue to operate its two splash parks, but officials there said moves have been made to restrict flow and reduce hours of operation.

A play fountain in front of the main entrance of Vintage Faire Mall will continue to operate, but with reduced hours, opening an hour after the mall and closing an hour before, marketing manager Annie Amies said. “We have cut back at the mall, but not to the extent that it should affect our visitors,” she said in an email.

At Emanuel in Turlock, hospital staff is taking several steps to conserve water in the drought, spokeswoman Pennie Rorex said. Draining of the pools is the most immediately obvious measure, but there are others. These include reduction on the watering schedule, down to twice a week from three times. And groundskeepers are keeping a close eye on sprinkler heads to make sure they’re functioning well and aimed properly.

“We are presently conducting a campuswide water-use audit ... that includes an examination of what/if specific department activities could be postponed, and if yes, for how many days, etc.,” Rorex said in an email. “The audit also looks at water requirements such as drinking water, bathing, showering, hand washing (for example, dialysis, what kind of water and how much per patient and how many patients per day).”

Once the audit is complete, staff will evaluate results to develop further plans, she said.

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