Drought supplies flow into East Bay taps

Improved treatment plants are ready for Sacramento River water supplies 

OAKLAND – As part of the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD) drought response, the agency will draw supplemental water from the Sacramento River, starting today, to boost its Mokelumne River water supplies for its 1.4 million East Bay customers.

From October 2021 to February 2022, EBMUD will pump 35,250 acre-feet of water (about 11 billion gallons) through the Freeport Regional Water Facility on the Sacramento River, primarily under its contract with the US Bureau of Reclamation. EBMUD has a federal water contract for 133,000 acre-feet but only received a 25 percent allocation this year due to dry conditions. These supplemental supplies represent almost 20 percent of EBMUD’s customer water needs for one year. 

“We’ve planned and invested for decades to make our water supply resilient and now our plans are paying off,” said EBMUD Board President Doug Linney. “Ensuring reliable water supplies requires a diverse water supply portfolio including conservation, recycled water, and use of supplemental supplies – we’re doing it all.”  

Storage and treatment

The supplemental water will travel through EBMUD’s aqueducts to San Pablo and Moraga creeks, and then flow into the San Pablo and Upper San Leandro Reservoirs where it will be stored for treatment at EBMUD’s Sobrante and Upper San Leandro Water Treatment Plants. Since the last drought in 2015, EBMUD completed a $46 million infrastructure upgrade to these two plants to enhance ozone systems to further improve water quality. Some customers may notice a change in the characteristics of their water because it may originate from a different watershed than their typical supply. All EBMUD water is treated to the highest standards to meet or exceed all state and federal requirements.

Cornerstone of reliability

The East Bay relies on the snow and runoff from the Mokelumne Watershed for 90 percent of its water supply, but during a drought, the Freeport Regional Water Facility becomes one of EBMUD’s greatest assets to diversify its water portfolio. EBMUD invested about $500 million to build the Freeport Regional Water Facility, which was completed in 2011 and is jointly owned with Sacramento County. It was used for the first time during the historic 2014-2016 drought.

“Supplemental supplies lessen the need for mandatory drought restrictions and rationing, which can take a heavy toll on customers, businesses and the Bay Area economy,” said EBMUD Director of Water and Natural Resources Michael Tognolini. “We’re grateful to our many partners and ratepayers for making this incredible investment possible.”

The cost to purchase and deliver this year’s supplemental water is nearly $15 million and is funded by budgeted operations costs. EBMUD officials will continue pursuing additional water transfers for next year.

Water supply and conservation

As of October 1, the start of the new water year, EBMUD’s total system storage was approximately 437,000 acre-feet, which is 76 percent of average and 57 percent of capacity. Water supplies are slightly higher than were projected earlier this year because of customer conservation, which has added an additional 5,400 acre-feet.   

EBMUD declared a Stage 1 drought and asked for voluntary cutbacks of 10 percent in April 2021. Since July, our customers have conserved nearly 8 percent compared to the same time last year. To meet conservation targets, EBMUD has ramped up advertising, rebates, targeted information and community outreach.

“We appreciate every customer for doing their part during this drought and finding ways to reduce their water use,” said EBMUD General Manager Clifford Chan. “We don’t know if next year will be dry or if rainy days are ahead, but we have to be ready. Please do what you can today to save water. Every drop puts our community in better shape for tomorrow.” 


The East Bay Municipal Utility District has a proud history of providing high-quality drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. EBMUD’s wastewater system serves 740,000 customers and helps protect the ecosystem of San Francisco Bay. EBMUD is a not-for-profit public agency established in 1923.

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