Contra Costa water users face restrictions, rate hike

Following Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order earlier this month mandating statewide water conservation measures, the Contra Costa Water District Board of Directors voted Wednesday to require a 25 percent reduction in water use.

Residents will be expected to cut back from the amount of water they used in 2013, district spokeswoman Jennifer Allen said. The new baseline is a change for the district, which previously asked customers to reduce water usage by 15 percent based on average water usage from 2005, 2006 and 2007, Allen said.

The board will vote June 3 on whether or not to approve the change in its baseline, along with whether or not they will add a 50-cent charge for every water unit — or 748 gallons — consumed over 200 gallons per day. Allen said that currently, customers on average consume 320 gallons per day.

The rate hike is temporary and Allen said that if approved, it would expire once the state’s emergency drought order is lifted. Customers responded well to the previous year’s voluntary water reduction program, when the board asked residents to reduce water usage by 15 percent, Allen said. On average, customers voluntarily reduced water usage by 24 percent, based on the 2005-2007 average, Allen said:

“Customers responded very well to the voluntary call for a 15 percent reduction. …¬†People are very aware of how serious the drought situation is and we are confident our customers will respond to the new measure.”

As part of the drought program, Allen said residents also won’t be able to water outdoor landscapes 48 hours before or after measurable rainfall or water more than twice a week, two prohibitions that are in line with the governor’s mandate. Those who do could face stiff fines of $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense, Allen said.

The first offense is a verbal warning, she said:

“It’s not a stick we want to enforce.”

Allen added the district will be bringing on more staff to help enforce the new regulations. Finally, the board is supporting the construction of a rock barrier along the False River, which lies within the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Allen said.

The barrier would physically deter seawater from entering the southern part of the delta. Allen said the district has four water intakes in the delta and it’s the only source of drinking water for the district. The barrier would help maintain the quality of the district’s water, she said.