EBMUD adds 8% water surcharge as state warns Californians aren't conserving enough

Water districts say Californians need to do more to conserve water. Statewide, Californians' water use increased by 19% in March compared to March 2020.

On Tuesday, the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board voted 6-1 to add a drought surcharge to the water bills of their 1.4 million customers.

"It starts July 1, every time you turn on your tap, you'll be assessed an 8% surcharge over the amount that you normally pay for your water bill," Nelsy Rodriguez, an EBMUD spokeswoman.

Rodriguez says the drought surcharge is expected to raise about $30 million in the coming year. That is only half the cost, however, of the drought mitigation measures that EBMUD will need to take to boost water supplies during the drought.

"For an average single-family home using 200 gallons of water per day, the 8 percent drought surcharge will amount to approximately 10 cents a day, $3.08 more per month ($6.16 per two-month billing cycle)," said a statement by EBMUD.

EBMUD showed photos taken last September of the Pardee reservoir which show the water line dramatically lower than its usual level.

The statewide snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, which supplies the reservoirs when the snow melts, was just at 27% of its historic average in April.

The Department of Water Resources reported Tuesday that the majority of reservoirs are low including Shasta which is just 40% of capacity and Oroville which is just 55% full.

Lawrence Nussbaum a senior consultant with the California Green Business Network says they provide businesses with free help to get green certification, and water conservation inspections are part of the program.

"We work with medical facilities, food manufacturers, auto shops...salons," said Nussbaum. He says statewide there are some 4,500 businesses that have received green certification. Alameda County has 250 green-certified businesses which has added up to a lot of savings.

"The 250 green businesses collectively saved 43 million gallons of water," said Nussbaum, "That level of water is equivalent to 121 bathtubs of fresh drinking water per hour."

The drought is having one impact on dining out. East Bay MUD and some water districts are back to banning restaurants and bars from automatically giving water to customers.

At The Cannery Kitchen and Tap in Castro Valley, they're asking customers to buy bottled water or bring their own.

"I'm afraid for the day we don't have water coming out of the faucet. It's going to happen if we don't get serious," said Debbie Pfisterer, owner of The Cannery Kitchen and Tap.

The Cannery Kitchen and Tap got its green certification on Earth Day this year.
The Castro Valley Natural Grocery next door received its green certification this past week.

Small steps make a big difference, according to EBMUD and other water districts.

"If we all take those little small actions today we can meet that 10% target and save money for next year in case it is dry again," said Rodriguez.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.