EBMUD to seek strict water restrictions

The East Bay Municipal Utility District board of directors will hear a recommendation from district staff to declare a stage four critical drought at the board’s meeting on Tuesday.

With water storage in all reservoirs combined expected to be at a one-third capacity by Oct. 1, the board will consider additional actions to ensure water conservation, according to a statement released by EBMUD staff.

General manager Alexander Coate said in a statement:

“EBMUD staff for decades has planned for a worst-case scenario of a three-year severe drought. So far, our plans have worked. We’ve managed through this drought with minimal impact to customers or the local economy. We can’t know how dry next winter will be so we must save as much as we can starting today.”

On Tuesday the board will also consider increasing district-wide customer cutbacks from 15 to 20 percent, as requested by Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order issued on April 1.Richard Harris, manager of water conservation, said in a statement:

“The 20 percent cutback goal district-wide is achievable if all customers, especially single family residential and irrigation customers, abide by the existing and new outdoor restrictions.”

Staff will also recommend customers to water their landscapes before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. for no more than two non-consecutive days per week, and eliminate all runoff, according to Harris. Additionally, the board will consider an ordinance that would fine individuals for stealing water or using a public fire hydrant without authorization and an ordinance prohibiting excessive water use.

With the proposed excessive use penalties, the district would be able to penalize single-family residents who use four and a half times more water than the average household. Customers subject to the penalty would be charged $2 per unit over the limit.

According to EBMUD officials, in 2014, customers saved 12 percent of water compared to their 2013 use, EBMUD staff said. So far, conservation efforts in 2015 are only at 6 percent since the start of the year. Coate added:

“What’s in our reservoirs is only part of the picture. The snow pack is gone. Normally snow melts in spring and early summer, boosting stored water supplies. But this is not a normal year. We expect little runoff during this critically dry year. We must take necessary action to ensure we can provide water through the next year.”