At Cecil Reese's home near Ham Lane and Turner Road, he was clearly on a mission as he paced around his yard and showcased his downspouts, each one an opportunity for rainwater collection.
Normally, the water just finds its way into a massive puddle in the yard or meanders toward the sewer, where it eventually reaches the ocean. But Reese, with his humble upbringing, has big plans for the pipes. He wants to connect them to a dry well, a deep hole designed to move surface water underground with help from drainage pipes — possibly helping recharge the area's parched groundwater basins.
"I hate waste," said the Oklahoma native. He pitched the idea to the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District Board of Directors on Tuesday. The board liked Reese's suggestion and plans to pursue it further. There was concern, however, about paying for the project and keeping sediments out of the collection. Reese offered to try the concept on his home and said incentives and tax breaks could be offered to make the plan more appealing. Recently, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, won San Joaquin County millions of dollars in federal funds to be used on water conservation programs. Reese would like to see some of those funds used to incentivize his idea.
Reese came to California to pick fruit in the late 1940s and eventually made a career at General Mills. Decades ago, he owned property in Acampo, and his experiences with septic tanks led him to the idea. He said the dry wells could be constructed similarly to the vertical drains that house septic tanks, and could have grass cover them to keep the area looking landscaped.
At his home, Reese installed a three-inch ABS pipe he will connect to one of the downspouts in his backyard. He said the line, once attached, could feed into a dry well he wants to have drilled into his front yard.
Reese said the issue of the dry well taking on too much rain and not draining into the aquifer could be remedied by having multiple dry wells in the front yard. He said the more people who participate, the better.
"If every roof in town was a collector and every yard a dry well, we could get a lot done," Reese said.
Board member Bryan Pilkington raised concerns about who would be responsible for owning and maintaining the systems, as well as possible pollutant issues. He said rainwater isn't completely pure because it falls through the polluted air and could taint the aquifer.
"There are more caveats than benefits," he said. "I see liability issues down the road."
The majority of the board said Reese's idea had merit and they plan to discuss it with city officials and environmental leaders in the near future.
"Lovable, livable Lodi could really put itself on the map with this," Reese said. "You've got to have vision."