Some Bay Area cities, golf courses ask EBMUD for flexibility on water restrictions

SAN RAMON, Calif. (KTVU) - Some Bay Area cities with large fields and some privately-owned golf courses are asking East Bay Municipal Utilities District for some flexibility when it comes to following some of their water restriction rules.

Some of those cities are willing to make a trade-off in order to maintain their playing fields.

At Coyote Creek Park, a maintenance coordinator for the San Ramon Parks Department checks thousands of sprinklers by hand and electronically, at the city's 56 fields and parks.

Coyote Creek Park is one of eight fields in San Ramon with irrigation that uses potable water.

"When school is out, and it's not dark, these fields are being used, all across the City of San Ramon," said Mayor Bill Clarkson.

The fields get an estimated 50,000 hours of use, almost year round. It's a resource the city would like to protect, but the fields need to be watered four times a week.

That conflicts with new water restrictions.

"You can water twice a week, maximum, only," Andrea Pook, with East Bay Municipal Utilities Dist. explained.

Now, cities, like San Ramon, and some golf courses have asked the water utility for some flexibility on that watering rule.

Andrea Pook with the East Bay Municipal Utilities District said, "We'll review these things on a case-by-case basis. First of all, they need to tell us why they need that extra day."

EBMUD is working on a compromise. If large irrigators like cities and golf courses reduce their overall water use by 40 percent compared to their 2013 use, then they'll be able to water their fields more than twice a week.

"We have other places we can dial it back, replace it, let it die out," Clarkson said of the areas where they will forgo watering. "We're not trying to be exempt. We think we should abide by the same rules as everybody else in terms of saving water."

Pook said the cities and golf courses were not getting special treatment.

"It's not like they're getting a free ride, it's not like they're getting a deal," she said. "Bottom line, they're still going to be watering less."

But only cities and golf courses can ask for that flexibility, not residents. Pook said even if some residents find that unfair, in a drought, communities have to be selective for the greater good.

"Where do I want my water to go? Do I want it to go to a decorative lawn? Or do I want to spend it on a soccer field that kids use?" she said "It's a weighing of priorities on a micro scale and a macro scale, too."