EBMUD list reveals excessive water users

- East Bay Municipal Utility District officials fielded questions at a news conference Friday about the district's revelation of a list of 1,108 households that have been penalized for using more than 1,000 gallons of water per day.

EBMUD on Thursday released the identity of customers who in a two-month billing cycle between July and August violated the Excessive Use Policy Ordinance, which imposed fines on suspected water wasters as a reaction to the state's drought.

Abby Figueroa, spokeswoman for EBMUD, during a press conference Friday morning said this type of information has not been released by EBMUD since 1991, during another tough drought year.

And there are even more customers who are potential violators, Figueroa said, because not all water meters have been read yet. Meaning more names will be released in coming months, she said.

But Figueroa said it was never the intention of EBMUD to discourage water wasting by exposing excessive water users.

"We're protective of our customers' information," she said. Later she added, "We don't believe drought shaming is the way to go."

Retired Chevron Oil executive George Kirkland, who lives in the gated community of Blackhawk in Danville, topped the list by using a whopping 755,000 gallons of water in the last 60 days.  That's 12,500 gallons a day, almost 13 times the allowable use.

Kirkland told KTVU that his four-acre lot has 1,700 grape vines and that he unsuccessfully tried to drill a well. Kirkland said believes that irrigation leaks have doubled his water use since the last billing cycle, which would still put him well into the top tier of excessive water users.

Kirkland served as Chevron's vice chairman and executive vice president. He started with the company in 1974 and retired in June.

Second on the list at 8,091 gallons of water per day was Mark Pine, a longtime venture capitalist living in Alamo. Pine did not return KTVU's calls.

According to a database prepared by the Bay Area News Group, Billy Beane, the Oakland A's executive vice president of baseball operations, makes the list of leading water wasters.

Beane, a Danville resident, had the third-highest total of water use at 5,996 gallons per day, according to the compilation of EBMUD data released to some media outlets Thursday.

Beane blamed his excessive use on irrigation and pool leaks.

"We are more than displeased and embarrassed by the usage and are taking immediate action," he said.

Many of the households that violated the ordinance were in East Bay communities with larger properties, Figueroa said, such as Danville and Alamo. EBMUD expected that would be the case.

"Yet our board drew a line (regardless)," she said. "Because this is the most severe drought in a generation."

This year, EBMUD declared a Stage 4 critical drought and set a community-wide goal to reduce water use 20 percent compared to 2013.

EBMUD's total water reserves are at 46 percent capacity, Figueroa said. It has dwindled to well below normal levels, she added.

"And it will only continue until it starts to rain," she said. "When your primary supplier, Mother Nature, isn't delivering, you need to make some adjustments."

All face fines for using more than 1,000 gallons of water per day.

Figueroa stressed Friday that the release of names, addresses and usage of customers who were penalized for excessive water use was necessary under public records laws.

She also emphasized that all customers were informed about the Excessive Use Policy Ordinance, which went into effect July 1, and those near limits were sent warning letters in advance of their bill.

Under the ordinance, single-family residential customers who use more than 80 units, or 59,840 gallons of water per billing period, are subject to a $2 penalty for each unit over that threshold. Each unit equates to 748 gallons.

Figueroa said customers in the list of violators faced penalties that ranged from the minimum $2 to more than $1,800.

Since Friday's list only is a third of this cycle's billings, there could be three times as many big users who East Bay MUD will be looking for.

"If needed, the penalty can a lot tougher," said Figueroa.   

That could mean higher financial penalties, flow restrictions and, in the worst case, out and out cutoffs.

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