New water restrictions for 1.4 million East Bay residents

Underscoring a growing trend as California’s severe drought drags into a third summer, 1.4 million East Bay residents will see new crackdowns on water use – the first since 2016 – under rules expected to be approved on Tuesday evening.

The board of directors of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, an Oakland-based government agency, is due to vote to declare a drought emergency, to request a 15% reduction in water use from 2020 levels and to limit landscape watering to no more than three days a week in its service area, which stretches from Hayward to Crockett and includes Oakland, Walnut Creek and Richmond.

The district is also expected to impose a 2% to 8% drought surcharge on customer bills, as well as a penalty for excessive water use, and rules that order the agency to make the names of the biggest public. residential water users later this summer. The proposed rules also require restaurants to serve tap water only on request and require hotels and motels to offer guests the option not to wash towels and linens daily. If approved, as expected, they will come into effect immediately.

“We’ve seen water use go up over the last few months because it was so dry in January, February and March,” said Andrea Pook, spokesperson for East Bay MUD. “Normally, people rely on winter rains to water their yards and outdoor gardens. They couldn’t count on it this year, so they watered more. We try to get people back on track.

The district had asked customers to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10% starting last April, but so far they have only reduced their usage by 6%.

The new rules are part of a growing trend in the Bay Area and California.

On Tuesday, Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District was to limit watering to one day a week in parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura counties – a decision that affects 6 million people.

Last November, the San Jose Water Company, which supplies water to 1 million people in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno, limited landscape watering to no more than two days. per week.

San Jose Water also asked its residential customers to reduce their water usage by 15% from 2019 levels or pay $7.13 in surcharges for every unit of water (748 gallons) they use at the beyond this amount.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, the Contra Costa Water District, which serves 500,000 people in central and eastern Contra Costa County, asked residents to reduce their water usage by 15 percent from to 2020 levels. The district has not imposed mandatory limits on watering days of the week, but has announced it will impose a 15% drought surcharge beginning July 1, which it says will is needed to boost conservation and recoup reduced revenues from declining water sales.

The extra will be around $8 per month for an average home.

And the Alameda County Water District, which supplies water to 350,000 people in Fremont, Newark and Union City, limited lawn watering to one day a week through May, then twice a week. week from June to September.

California is entering its third straight year of severe drought. January, February and March of this year have been the driest three months of the entire year in Northern California since 1849, when records began.

Despite several days of rain and snow this month, that hasn’t been enough to offset the significant rainfall deficit: Reservoir levels remain below average across much of the state, with Shasta Lake, the largest in the state only 39% full and Oroville, the second largest. , 53% full on Tuesday.

Last July, Governor Gavin Newsom asked Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% from their 2020 levels. 8% cumulative. Last month, Newsom signed an executive order requiring water agencies to move to Stage 2 of their drought plans – out of six stages. Each city and water agency has different local rules for their drought stages, but stage 2 usually means limits on landscape watering, financial penalties to discourage increased use, and other restrictions.

East Bay MUD’s seven tanks are 71% full. But the district says it will not refill this year now that the winter rainy season is over and will look to buy water on the open market this summer to reduce the risk of shortages if the drought sets in. continues next year. Meanwhile, the Sierra snowpack, the source of nearly a third of California’s water supply, was at 35% of its historic average on Tuesday.

“This is a severe drought,” said Jay Lund, professor of environmental engineering at UC Davis. “It’s going to be another year of deep drought.”

The Municipal District of East Bay, based in Oakland, provides drinking water to 1.4 million residents in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. (Map: EBMUD)

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