As reservoirs refill, EBMUD relaxes emergency drought requirements and doubles down on long-term conservation

Customer conservation combined with a surge in water supplies prompts water agency to suspend drought rules

With reservoir storage levels at 93 percent of average and customer conservation consistently hovering at 24 percent below 2013 use, the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors, with a vote of 7-0:

  • Declared the drought stage at Stage 0, indicating normal water supply levels and ending the water shortage emergency. The District has been in a Stage 4 Critical Drought since April 2015. 
  • Suspended the 25 percent drought surcharge for all customers. 
  • Suspended mandatory restrictions on water use.

All actions will be effective by July 1, 2016.

How did the East Bay make it through?

“We asked our customers to cut back 20 percent. This April, customers saved 26 percent compared to 2013. Our community stepped up and exceeded those goals,” said Board President Frank Mellon. “This year, water demands are as low as in 1978. This coupled with the hard efforts of our staff, ensured we managed well through this difficult drought emergency. We want to thank both our customers and our staff for this tremendous effort.”

The District’s drought actions are based on projected water storage levels in September (the end of the water year), after the year’s snowpack runoff is received in EBMUD reservoirs. Storage levels steadily decreased starting in 2012, with 2015 falling to a historic low.

This winter’s rain and snow proved beneficial, bringing precipitation levels to 107 percent of average. By the end of September, runoff is projected to fill reservoirs to above 605,000 acre feet which is 250,000 acre feet more than September 2015. This year’s runoff could fill the Oakland Coliseum more than 900 times. Most of EBMUD’s water comes from the Mokelumne watershed in the Sierra foothills.

To ensure adequate supply during the 2014 and 2015 dry years, EBMUD purchased and delivered about 80,000 acre feet of emergency dry year supplies from the Sacramento River through the Freeport Regional Water Project. This facility, built following years of drought planning and through regional partnerships, was first used in April 2014 to deliver dry year water supplies.

“The District’s investments and decades-long work to secure long-term water supplies and build the Freeport Regional Water Facility have paid off,” said Board Vice President William B. Patterson. “These emergency dry year supplies were needed, and in concert with great customer conservation made up for what nature couldn’t provide.”

The drought cost $75 million in emergency water purchases, depressed water sales, additional conservation services, and other operational costs this last year. The 25 percent drought surcharge will recover $50 million of these costs. Cost savings plus withdrawals from EBMUD’s rate stabilization fund – like a savings account – will help address the remaining shortfall.

Though conditions are encouraging, EBMUD remains committed to efficient water use. The District is moving from emergency drought response to continued water loss management and infrastructure renewal. EBMUD will continue to work with all customers to maintain wise water use, locking in current water savings for the future.

“As a result of this drought, we know our customers will maintain these new conservation habits. And we will continue to focus on upgrading and strengthening our infrastructure so we can continue to serve the East Bay for another 100 years,” said Mellon.

EBMUD will consider adjustments to its permanent water use regulations to preserve some emergency drought restrictions, suspended today. These regulation changes will ensure that the District’s conservation levels, long-term planning and water use reporting are in agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board. EBMUD expects to meet current and future state-mandated water use reductions by continuing its conservation efforts without the need for mandatory water use restrictions, and will continue to prohibit wasteful use of water.

Effective July 1, 2016, customers will no longer pay the 25 percent Stage 4 drought surcharge. A 7 percent rate increase approved by the board last year as part of EBMUD’s standard budgeting process, will go into effect on July 1 to cover increased operational and infrastructure costs associated with providing reliable, high quality water to customers every day.


EBMUD has a proud history of providing high-quality drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The District’s award-winning wastewater treatment protects San Francisco Bay and serves 650,000 customers.



Andrea Pook
Senior Public Information Representative