Recent storms provided 7 inches of rain for EBMUD, but xxx. Photo: Pete Rosos
Recent storms provided 7 inches of rain for EBMUD, but the utility still only has about half the average precipitation it counts on. Photo: Pete Rosos

In one of the driest years ever, EBMUD is asking East Bay residents to stretch water supplies and cut their usage by 10%. Without enough rain, the utility may still have to declare a water shortage emergency this spring, it said.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides provides water and sewage treatment to customers in the East Bay, released a statement Tuesday that spelled out the severity of the current, ongoing drought.

“EBMUD relies on snowmelt and runoff for almost all of its supply. As of this weekend, the amount of snow and rain in the Mokelumne River watershed 90 miles from the East Bay is 49% of normal,” it said in a release. Recent storms provided about seven inches of rain for EBMUD.

“This weekend’s rain and snow were a relief. But we still have only about half of the average precipitation we count on,” said EBMUD Board President Andy Katz.

Water use increases in spring and summer as temperatures rise, so people who voluntarily cut back water use now will stretch supplies in anticipation of the increased demand later in the year.

EBMUD customers may also see the cost of water rise, if temporarily. The utility said it can purchase additional (though costlier) supplies of water from the Sacramento River. “To cover the costs of buying, treating and delivering this dry year water supply, the average household’s monthly water costs may increase temporarily by about $6,” it wrote.

And EBMUD has not ruled out more voluntary cutbacks or mandatory rationing if conditions worsen.

Ways to cut back on water use:

  • Slow your flow. Use the EBMUD WaterSmart Home Survey Kit to evaluate your home’s water use and find leaks and inefficient fixtures.
  • Find and fix leaks. Toilet and irrigation systems contain some of the biggest and sneakiest leaks.
  • Turn off or reduce your outdoor irrigation. It may be a drought, but it’s still winter. Nights are cool, days are short and many plants don’t need to be watered as much or at all.
  • Upgrade appliances and plumbing fixtures to more water efficient models. EBMUD currently offers water conservation rebates to customers for toilets and washing machines.
  • Convert your thirsty lawn to a sustainable landscape and upgrade your irrigation equipment to efficient drip systems and self-adjusting controllers. Rebates are available for single- and multi-family residences and commercial customers.
  • Don’t let water run When washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or taking a shower, be aware of the times you can turn the faucet off.
  • Use a broom rather than a hose to clean porches, driveways, and sidewalks.
  • Only do full loads of laundry.

Visit the EBMUD WaterSmart Center for more tips.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...