Drought forces East Bay MUD to use less tasty water sources

It's not just that there's less water to go around, but rather that some of it will be from a decidedly different source. Especially for 1.3 million customers of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD).

At East Bay MUD's Orinda water treatment plant, the water coming in is different. Through one portal, instead of cold snowmelt water coming from the bottom of the Pardee Reservoir, the water is coming from near Pardee's surface.

"The water is warmer, has more sunshine and the algae grows at those levels," said EBMUD spokeswoman Abby Figueroa.

Also coming in through another portal is water from the Sacramento River, a supplemental supply brought in for the first time this year. It's also warmer and more organic.

"This year, this is not going to be the normal water that our customers are used to drinking. We expect changes to the taste and smell of our tap water," said Figueroa.

This will be the second time in as many months that Eastbay MUD will introduce this new supply, but more slowly since the last time this happened, customers complained loudly.

"The algae is filtered out at the treatment plant. It's safe to drink, but it does leave behind a different taste and smell that people here in the East Bay are not used to," said Figueroa.

Customers will start noticing the change next week and are advised to get used to it for the long run.

"These changes in the taste and the smell are here until the drought ends. We need a very wet winter or a few somewhat wet winters to ge out of the drought," said Figueroa.

This time, the new water will be introduced gradually. Folks wanting to blunt the taste and smell should chill their drinking water and run it through a carbon filter such as a Brita pitcher which will remove a lot of the offensive taste and smell.