Pardee Reservoir. Photo: EBMUD

The East Bay Municipal Utility District ended its drought surcharge Wednesday as winter storms replenished reservoirs and conservation goals were met.

The 8% surcharge went into effect on July 1, 2022, and went toward purchasing additional water supplies and expenses. 

Since last fall, EBMUD has spent $19 million on supplemental water, according to EBMUD spokesperson Andrea Pook. Projections show that EBMUD will not have to purchase supplemental water supplies to meet East Bay water demands in 2023.

“Since we have recovered our cost through the fiscal year for drought expenses, we don’t believe we need to collect that surcharge any longer,” Pook said. 

EBMUD’s seven reservoirs are 82% full, thanks to impressive rains and heavy snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas. The East Bay’s largest source of drinking water, the Pardee Reservoir, was 96% full as of Wednesday. The Mokelumne watershed sees 48 inches of rain per water year on average; to date, it has received 53 inches, Pook said.

Conservation has helped. 

“We’re proud of our customers for conserving the amount of water that they did these past few years,” Pook said. “It makes a difference, and it provides additional safety and reliability for our community’s water supply. In an email, Pook added that in 2022 East Bay customers have used 32,000 fewer acre-feet of water than in 2020.

The latest U.S. drought monitor report shows that all of Alameda County remains abnormally dry. EBMUD remains in a stage 2 drought, meaning that in addition to a mandated 10% water use reduction, the following restrictions apply:

  • Limit outdoor watering to three times per week, before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m., with no runoff. No irrigation within 48 hours of rainfall.
  • No washing of sidewalks and driveways.
  • No irrigation of turf on public street medians.
  • No irrigation of non-functional turf on non-residential sites as directed by the State.
  • Non-recirculating decorative fountains are prohibited.
  • When washing motor vehicles, the use of a hose shut-off nozzle is required. 
  • Restaurants are required to only provide drinking water upon request, and hotels to offer patrons the option of not having towels and linens washed daily.
  • Single-family residential customers who exceed the excessive use threshold of 132 units, approximately 1,646 gallons per day, will receive one warning and then will be fined $2 for every unit (748 gallons) of water used above the threshold.

The board voted on Feb. 14 to rescind its water shortage emergency declaration, meaning its board of directors may consider downgrading to a stage 1 drought. Under a stage 1 drought, East Bay residents would still be encouraged, but not required, to cut down on water use by 10%, and lists of excessive water users would no longer be available to the public. (These public records are what make stories like these possible.) 

Pook said the board of directors will likely decide whether to downgrade to a stage 1 drought when it receives its final water supply availability report during its April 25 meeting

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Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...