EBMUD Board of Directors declares drought

Dry conditions prompt need for conservation and extra water supplies

OAKLAND – The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Board of Directors voted to declare a Stage 1 drought shortage at its April 27, 2021 meeting based on projections that water runoff will fall below what is needed to refill EBMUD reservoirs this year. The Board also voted to purchase supplemental water supplies from the Sacramento River and ask East Bay customers to begin voluntary conservation to save water supplies now in case next year is also dry. EBMUD will track water use in its service area, and adjust outreach, to achieve a 10 percent reduction in total water consumption District-wide.

“This year has been the second driest year on record in our Mokelumne River watershed and the driest year on record in the East Bay,” said Board President Doug Linney. “Fortunately, we started last year well, and our customers continued saving water in our drought-prone region. However, we must take initial actions now to ensure we don’t face harder choices next year.”

Since the last drought, East Bay residents and businesses have continued conserving water, using 13 percent less water in 2020 compared to water use in 2013, at the beginning of the last drought.

“Many customers are already conserving, and we ask them to keep it up. We know there’s room for more conservation from many others. It can be accomplished with simple changes – and EBMUD is here to help,” said Linney.

EBMUD relies on snowmelt and runoff from the Sierra Nevada for most of its supply. As of April 26, the amount of snow and rain in the Mokelumne River watershed, 90 miles from the East Bay, is 54 percent of average and EBMUD reservoirs are 69 percent full. The amount of expected runoff from this year’s rain and snow is approximately 260,000 acre-feet, well below the average of 745,000 acre-feet. While in non-drought years, EBMUD’s average end-of-September storage is about 600,000 acre-feet, EBMUD is projecting total system storage to be less than 500,000 acre-feet this year. 

Starting in August, EBMUD may purchase up to 58,000 acre feet of water from the Sacramento River delivered through the Freeport Regional Water Facility, which can move up to 100 million gallons daily to the East Bay at a cost of approximately $25 to $30 million. This facility is a cornerstone in EBMUD’s supplemental water system, built with regional partners and first used in the 2014-2016 drought. This water is available through EBMUD’s contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and can be supplemented with purchase agreements with willing sellers. A portion of all supplemental water purchases is dedicated to aid fisheries.

“There isn’t really such a thing as a ‘normal’ year. Change has become the norm especially now, as we experience the effects of climate change, with more extreme wet and dry years,” says General Manger Clifford Chan.

“The good news is that we are prepared and have planned for the effects of climate change with a diversified water portfolio, which includes conservation, supplemental supplies, and recycled water for irrigation and industry. Increased pipeline replacements and new water saving projects such as satellite and acoustic leak detection technology helps us identify pipeline leaks and conserve supplies.”

As the drought situation unfolds, EBMUD is updating its Urban Water Management Plan and Water Shortage Contingency Plan to explore various scenarios that incorporate the impacts of climate change, changes to population, and integration of uncertainties affecting water supplies. These plans are an important part of EBMUD’s long-range vision to ensure future water reliability. This plan is open for public comment at ebmud.com/UWMP.

What can customers do?

  • Water is essential for life and health. Continue to wash your hands and take other precautions to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Review our water use regulations prohibiting water waste that remain in effect. They include:
    • Outdoor watering that causes runoff of water onto non-irrigated areas like sidewalks, driveways or roads.
    • Use of a hose without a shut-off nozzle to wash a vehicle or boat.
    • Use of potable water in a decorative fountain unless the water is recirculated.
    • Use of potable water for construction, street cleaning or dust control where an alternative recycled water source is available.
  • Check and repair leaks in toilets and irrigation systems.
  • Adjust outdoor irrigation timers or manually water landscape three times a week or less, at dawn and dusk to avoid evaporation.
  • Sign on to EBMUD’s web portal to set up leak alerts and monitor water use.
  • Install a sustainable landscape. EBMUD offers rebates for landscape redesigns, irrigation upgrades, and more.
  • EBMUD can help you to manage your water use. Visit ebmud.com/watersmart.

Mandatory restrictions are not currently in place, nor are drought surcharges or the Excessive Use Ordinance at this stage of a drought.

“If you already practice conservation, thank you,” said Linney. “If you have room to conserve more, you can help our East Bay community by changing some habits, fixing leaks and limiting outdoor water use to be more water smart.”


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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Andrea Pook
Senior Public Information Representative