The climate is changing, and with it, droughts can become more severe. Regulations that govern water supply are changing too. As a leader in sustainability, EBMUD is at the forefront of planning for an uncertain future by diversifying our water supply portfolio.
Each winter and spring, EBMUD captures rain and snowmelt in our East Bay and Sierra Foothills reservoirs. Normally there’s enough water in the Mokelumne River watershed to meet the needs of our customers, fish and wildlife, and users downstream. These legacy practices are our primary function. We strongly promote water conservation, too. To ensure water for the East Bay, we also focus on new and diverse water supply options for operational flexibility in dry years.
About six percent of our supply now comes from previously used – and highly treated – water. We provide it for irrigation, cooling systems and industrial uses. As public acceptance of recycled water broadens, we’ll invest more into this smart water reuse. In the next decade, we also will consider whether recycled water can meet more types of water needs.
Just a year after the Freeport Regional Water Facility was built, California began to show signs of drought. Several years later, we activated the facility and, for the first time ever, drew water from the Sacramento River. Purchase and transfer agreements with irrigation districts and rice farmers accounted for 30 percent of our supply in 2015 and helped us ease the strain during that critical drought. Now that transfers are a proven approach, we’re working toward longer-term agreements with more agencies and private property owners in Placer, Yuba and Sacramento counties. We’ll consider storing water in Contra Costa Water District‘s Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project, too.
With partners in the Central Valley, we can now bank Mokelumne River water in an underground aquifer. Through an agreement with the North San Joaquin County Water Conservation District, this year we provided surface water to property owners in the San Joaquin Basin to irrigate their fields, preserving an equal amount of water in the aquifer for shared use in the future. Through this collaboration we will see mutual benefits for our customers and our agricultural partners, with hopes for expansion.