2016-05-EBMUD Pardee Reservoir
Pardee Reservoir, the “heart of EBMUD’s drinking water supply” in April 2016. Photo: EBMUD
Pardee Reservoir, the “heart of EBMUD’s drinking water supply” in April 2016. Photo: EBMUD

EBMUD  has suspended its 25% drought surcharge for all customers, as well as mandatory restrictions on water use, after reservoirs have filled up and efforts by East Bay residents to conserve water conservation have yielded impressive results.

Reservoir storage levels are at 93% of average, according to EBMUD and customers’ conservation levels have consistently been 24% below 2013 use.

Read more about the California drought and how it affects Berkeley.

“Our customers are doing a great job,” said EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Polk. “We will continue to work with all customer groups to keep conservation going!”

EBMUD’s decision goes into effect on July 1.

The Pardee Reservoir in November 2015. Photo: EBMUD
Pardee Reservoir in November 2015. Photo: EBMUD

Specifically, EBMUD’s board of directors voted unanimously to declare the drought at Stage 0, indicating normal water supply levels and ending the water shortage emergency; to suspend the 25% drought surcharge for all customers; and to suspend mandatory restrictions on water use. The district has been in a Stage 4 Critical Drought since April 2015.

“We asked our customers to cut back 20%. This April, customers saved 26% compared to 2013. Our community stepped up and exceeded those goals,” said Board President Frank Mellon in a statement. “This year, water demands are as low as in 1978. This coupled with the hard efforts of our staff, ensured we managed well through this difficult drought emergency. We want to thank both our customers and our staff for this tremendous effort.”

The District’s drought actions are based on projected water storage levels in September (the end of the water year), after the year’s snowpack runoff is received in EBMUD reservoirs. Storage levels steadily decreased starting in 2012, with 2015 falling to a historic low.

This winter’s rain and snow brought precipitation levels to 107% of average, said EBMUD. By the end of September, runoff is projected to fill reservoirs to above 605,000 acre feet which is 250,000 acre feet more than September 2015. Put another way: this year’s runoff could fill the Oakland Coliseum more than 900 times. Most of EBMUD’s water comes from the Mokelumne watershed in the Sierra foothills, which includes the Pardee Reservoir and the Camanche Reservoir.

EBMUD employee Mark Bolton at Camanche. Photo: EBMUD
This time last year: EBMUD employee Mark Bolton at Camanche Reservoir in May 2015. Photo: EBMUD

EBMUD’s move coincided with the announcement of a new plan for dealing with the state’s persistent drought from Governor Jerry Brown. Brown said some conservation rules will be made permanent but he is also giving communities more of a say in deciding how much water they must save, including relaxing or dropping mandatory conservation targets. According to a Los Angeles Times report, Monday’s executive order makes the following provisions permanent: bans on hosing off sidewalks, washing cars with hoses that lack shut-off nozzles, irrigating lawns so that water spills onto pavement, as well as watering grass in public street medians.

For, while the water situation has improved, the drought is far from over. A Drought Monitor infographic based on 231 maps and published by the LA Times, shows an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.

For EBMUD, the cost of the drought has translated to $75 million in emergency water purchases, depressed water sales, additional conservation services, and other operational costs this last year. The 25% drought surcharge will recover $50 million of these costs, EBMUD said. Cost savings plus withdrawals from EBMUD’s rate stabilization fund will help address the remaining shortfall.

EBMUD provides drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

To find out what is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. And submit your own events: it’s self-serve and free.

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...