Agencies call for voluntary water conservation as drought deepens

Several water agencies are making moves to assure customers that as California moves into its second year of drought, they'll be able to get through without major lifestyle changes. 

It appears that the water suppliers are trying to nudge customers along in the belief that water conservation now will reduce or delay drastic measures and mandates as early as this summer.

Finding itself in the driest conditions and insufficient supplies looming, the Easy Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) board, unanimously declared a stage 1 water storage emergency. 

"Water supplies are not sufficient for meeting customer demand and we have no further precipitation in sight," said EBMUD Water Resources Manager Lena Tam.

A stage 1 drought, is a moderate emergency, the lowest of four stages. But without customer conservation, higher levels could come this summer, including possible rationing. 

"We're considering ways that we can make a mild ask of our customers, implement voluptuary reductions of up to 10%," said EBMUD's Director of Water and Natural Resources Michael Tognolini.

Sonoma Water, which provides water supply services to several agencies in  Sonoma and northern Marin, is asking for customers to voluntarily conserve before having to demand it. 

"It will, undoubtedly, bring to attention the need to conserve. It will be voluntary at first. I would imagine, as we move forward to the summer months, we would be looking at mandatory rationing or conservation," said Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonama Water board member David Rabbitt.

Valley Water in the South Bay said it has good reason to trust customers. The company said over the past 15 years, customers have shown that saving water is a part of their lifestyles. 

"In 2017 the board put out a 20% voluntary call for people to conserve water at a 20% rate compared to 2013. So over the last several years, we've seen residents here in Santa Clara County meet that goal. They've averaged about 20% savings," said Valley Water Matt Keller

Knowing that at least half of all residential water is used outside, a doubling down on the money paid out to install water-tolerant residential landscapes. 

"The landscape rebate program: increasing the incentive from $1 a square foot to $2 a square foot. And so we're looking for more participants in this program," said Keller.

The bottom line is to avoid the worst by conserving now like it's a major goal in life.