OAKLAND, Calif. - The forward-looking East Bay Municipal Utility District lowered the boom on excessive water use on Tuesday, but not as much as neighboring water utilities. Their actions, in one way or another, affect 1.4 million customers.
East Bay MUD has spent many years encouraging water conservation and a lot of money contracting for additional supplies. "We're still on course to have the driest January to June on record in 2022," said EBMUD's Water Resources Director Mike Tognolini. So, when the East Bay MUD Board met Tuesday afternoon to consider drought related measures needed to maintain adequate supplies, they were at an advantage because they have secured more extra or supplemental water supplies than many other agencies. "Not only is 2022 looking this way, the expectation, based on what's happening around the state, is that 2023 will also see very limited supplemental supplies," said Tognolini.
Even though East Bay MUD's reservoirs are at 71% capacity, they are not expected to fully refill after the spring snow pack melts.
The board adopted measures elevating the drought response to Stage 2. That includes only a 10% mandatory reduction in water use, tightening outdoor water-use prohibitions, reinstating excessive use penalties and imposing a drought surcharge on all customers to pay for both supplemental water supplies and costs of the drought emergency itself. The surcharge increase is projected to be a maximum of 10 cents per day or $6 for each two-month billing cycle until the end of the drought. Outdoor restrictions reduce watering to three days a week, no runoff allowed. No watering between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and no street or sidewalk washing.
"Summer is the best window to reduce demand. So, taking action now provides the best opportunity to reduce demand during the irrigation season," said Tognolini.
If East Bay MUD customers, residential, business and industrial don't respond meaningfully or the drought worsens, then more in the way of surcharges and penalties could arise.