Oakland, May 22, 2023
EBMUD turns 100, celebrates a century of water service to the East Bay
Reaffirms commitment to community, natural resources and the environment
OAKLAND - Today, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) celebrates 100 years of providing safe, reliable, affordable water service for the people of the San Francisco East Bay Area. As we commemorate a century of service, EBMUD reaffirms its enduring commitment to support our community, responsibly manage our shared natural resources and protect the environment.
In May 1923, East Bay residents voted to create a public water system to replace the many private companies that struggled to provide clean and reliable drinking water for a burgeoning region. On May 22, 1923, that vote established EBMUD.
As cities, towns and suburbs expanded across the East Bay’s shoreline and rolling hills, EBMUD set out to capture snowmelt and rain from the Sierra Nevada watershed of the Mokelumne River. Determined engineers and hardworking laborers built Pardee Dam – the highest in the United States at the time – and constructed an aqueduct to bring high-quality water 90 miles to the East Bay. And when rapid growth polluted the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay with sewage in the 1940s, residents again turned to EBMUD to construct a wastewater treatment plant that protects the bay environment and public health. By 1950, EBMUD was the second largest municipal water system west of the Mississippi.
“A century ago, the East Bay invested in the people and prosperity of the region by unifying a series of smaller, private water systems, securing dependable, high-quality water supplies from the Sierra Nevada, and investing in the network of pipes and plants to deliver water around the clock,” said EBMUD Board President Andy Katz. “Today, this vast system provides our diverse and dynamic community with a vital resource – protecting public health and the environment. We remain as committed to this work as when we were formed in 1923, and we are proud to build on this tradition as we innovate and improve to tackle the challenges of the next century.”
EBMUD has kept pace with the community’s needs by responsibly investing in the infrastructure and skills required to deliver high-quality water at the lowest price. Faced with recurring droughts, EBMUD and its customers have, together, conserved water while diversifying supply sources and recycling wastewater. Today EBMUD provides water to 1.4 million people. Wastewater treatment serves 740,000 customers.
“EBMUD champions the natural resources with which we are entrusted. We help customers conserve the water essential to our lives. And we care for vital watershed open spaces and stunning rivers and reservoirs – beloved assets that preserve our region’s character and offer opportunities for outdoor recreation,” said General Manager Clifford Chan. “Few essential services touch lives every day the way EBMUD does. It’s an enormous responsibility and a real privilege to be so fundamentally embedded in our community.”
As EBMUD begins its second century of service, the District faces numerous challenges. Aging infrastructure needs continued maintenance and replacement. Climate change is driving bigger swings between severe droughts and intense storms. Water and wastewater systems must deal with emerging contaminants and changing regulations. And wastewater treatment must reduce stormwater infiltration and limit nutrient levels to better protect the San Francisco Bay.
To meet these challenges, EBMUD is entering the most capital-intensive period in its history and increasing its five-year capital improvement program to invest $2.8 billion to upgrade water treatment plants, replace aging pipelines, rebuild neighborhood reservoirs, overhaul pumping plants, and modernize wastewater facilities.
“EBMUD is a not-for-profit utility, and rate dollars directly fund operations and capital improvements,” said Director of Finance Sophia Skoda. “Those who came before us planned well and built an amazing system to provide clean and reliable water to the East Bay; but it is imperative that we honor that legacy by maintaining and improving the resiliency and reliability of our water and wastewater systems for the generations to come.”
EBMUD takes pride in knowing its work is essential to public health, supports economic growth, and helps our vibrant and diverse communities thrive. Through earthquakes, fires, a pandemic, and climate change impacts, EBMUD’s commitment to serve – affordably and reliably – remains steadfast. EBMUD continues to invest in our community, and we thank our customers for a century of trust and support.
To commemorate EBMUD’s centennial, staff and board members buried a time capsule at our maintenance facility in Oakland which was the location of our original office in the 1920s. The capsule, a 12-inch diameter, 5-foot-long ductile iron pipe buried at the corner of 21st and Adeline streets, contains a variety of items that represent the District’s work and its people. It is to remain buried until future EBMUD employees open it on May 22, 2123.
Today’s 100-year EBMUD milestone is a testament to what our community can accomplish when we work together. Together we’ll take on what’s next.
Historical news clippings here:
· Oakland Tribune May 7, 1923
· Oakland Tribune October 10, 1927
· Oakland Tribune October 20, 1929
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.