April 26, 2022
EBMUD declares Stage 2 drought emergency
After another dry winter, EBMUD Board mandates 10% water conservation
OAKLAND – Following a bleak California snow survey on April 1 and the driest January to March on record, the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors voted 6-1 to elevate its drought response and mandate a 10 percent District-wide water use reduction target.
To date, EBMUD reservoirs are 71 percent full and will not fully refill when snow melts off the Sierra Nevada into the Mokelumne River Watershed, the primary source of drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
EBMUD first declared a Stage 1 drought in April 2021 and asked customers to voluntarily conserve 10 percent. East Bay customers met that goal initially, but water use has risen as skies have cleared and temperatures have warmed during the winter and spring.
"Despite a strong rainy start in October and December, the dry winter has compelled us to move into our next phase of action to ensure we have adequate supplies in case the drought continues next year,” EBMUD Board President Douglas Linney said. “We've spent decades planning and preparing for these events and are confident our efforts, combined with customer water savings, will get us through this drought."
During their regular meeting on April 26, Board members elevated EBMUD’s drought response to Stage 2 to ensure the water utility meets the needs of its customers if the dry weather continues. Board members approved the following actions:
- Mandated 10 percent water use reduction District-wide as compared to 2020 and review progress towards achieving this goal in November.
- Reinstatement of the Excessive Use Penalty Ordinance. The ordinance sets a threshold of roughly 1,646 gallons of water per day for households. Households who exceed the threshold will receive one warning, and then will face fines of $2 for every 748 gallons of water above the threshold.
- Updated outdoor water restrictions, including limiting outdoor watering to three times per week, prohibiting washing down sidewalks and driveways, and requiring restaurants and cafes to only provide water upon request, among other provisions.
Board members are also prepared to impose a drought surcharge of up to 8 percent to recover the expense of purchasing supplemental supplies as well as other drought-related costs. The surcharge would apply to customers’ water use charges, not the entire water bill. For the average EBMUD household that uses 200 gallons per day, an 8 percent surcharge would add approximately 10 cents per day to the customer’s water bill.
To date, EBMUD has paid for drought operations out of reserves. Funding drought emergency costs for a second year is not financially feasible without supplemental revenue. These emergency surcharges will only be in place as long as this drought persists, and revenues would go directly toward the cost of managing this emergency. The EBMUD Board of Directors will vote on the drought surcharge at its May 10 meeting.
Customer conservation remains an important tool to withstand multi-year droughts, and EBMUD customers have saved approximately 6 percent over the past year. However, it is not the only tool. EBMUD has spent decades diversifying its water supply portfolio. During the last several months, EBMUD brought 34,000-acre feet of supplemental supply from the Sacramento River into the East Bay system using our Freeport Regional Water Facility. Freeport was completed in 2011 and designed specifically to draw water from the Sacramento River in dry years to supplement EBMUD’s existing water supplies. Additionally, EBMUD works year-round fixing leaks in EBMUD-owned pipes, is expanding recycled water and ground water banking efforts, and is coordinating with other Bay Area water agencies to expand regional resilience to droughts.
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.