EBMUD to consider declaring Stage 4 Drought alert

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU and wires) – East Bay water officials have been asked to declare a Stage 4 drought alert, to add a drought surcharge to customer's bills by July 1st and also put into place stiff fines for individuals who are guilty of stealing water.

Those were among the measures the East Bay Municipal Utility District staff was recommending to the water utility's board of directors.

This comes as the water supply monitors at East Bay MUD headquarters are looking at rapidly dwindling supplies, with Camanche Reservoir in the Sierra foothills already three-quarters empty.

"EBMUD staff for decades has planned for a worst-case scenario of a three-year severe drought," said General Manager Alexander R. Coate in a prepared statement. "So far, our plans have worked. We've managed through this drought with minimal impact to customers or the local economy. We can't know how dry next winter will be so we must save as much as we can starting today."

On Tuesday, the board will take up considerations of several actions recommended by the staff including declaring a Stage 4 drought, increasing water use cutbacks from their current 15 percent to 20 percent and putting into stiff fines for violators.

"We are proposing that customers' water landscapes no more than two non-consecutive days per week before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m., and to eliminate all runoff," ," said Manager of Water Conservation Richard Harris. "If approved, this will be mandatory."

Officials said that if East Bay residents and businesses can meet the 20 percent goal in 2015, the district will have about 14 billion gallons stored in reservoirs by the end of the year -- enough water for nearly 156,000 average homes for a year.

If a temporary Stage 4 drought surcharge of up to 25 percent would be applied to a customer's bill if approved by the board on June 9th.

The average household using 10 units per month (246 gallons per day) would see their bill go up by $11.65 starting July 1st.

The easiest way to reduce consumption is use less water outdoors where currently one in three East Bay MUD gallons go. Figueroa says don't water more than two times a week - and water early in the morning because at night, there's not runoff.

Two key customer bases will need to do the most. "Single family residential customers with landscape and our irrigation customers. If those folks can cut their water use, abide by the outdoor watering restrictions, then we think we can meet this 20 percent cutback across the board," says Figueroa.

Meanwhile, EBMUD staff will also ask the board for authorization to immediately begin delivering nearly 11 billion gallons – about a two-month supply – from its Freeport facility on the Sacramento River, as it did last year, to fill local reservoirs.