Customers of the East Bay Municipal Utility District are being asked to voluntarily conserve water in response to below-normal water runoff projections.
The district, whose board of directors declared a Stage 1 drought on Tuesday, provides drinking water to 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It is not placing mandatory restrictions on its customers at this stage of drought, but is asking "voluntary conservation to save water supplies now in case next year is also dry." Officials said they will aim for 10% reduction in total water consumption across the agency's service area.
The agency's declaration came the same day Sonoma County officials proclaimed a drought emergency because of "severe drought conditions" in the region.
The actions came a week after the Marin Municipal Water District became the first major water agency in the Bay Area to impose water restrictions on customers; and less than a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for Sonoma and Mendocino counties . Newsom has not yet proclaimed a statewide drought.
Tony Estremera, the board chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said last week that while water use in Santa Clara County is down by about 20% — thanks to a voluntary water reduction practice agency officials said has been in place since the end of the "last historic drought" — "we can't rest on our success and wait for a drought emergency declaration" in the county.
"Water saved today is water that's available in the future," Estremera said, pointing to the district's investments in water infrastructure, technology and conservation programs. "We must continue to make conservation a way of life."
East Bay district officials said projections suggest "water runoff will fall below what is needed to refill (East Bay Municipal Utility District) reservoirs this year." The agency gets most of its water supply from snow melt and runoff from the Sierra Nevada, officials said.
As of Tuesday, district officials said snow and rain supply in the Mokelumne River watershed is 54% of average and the agency's reservoirs are 69% full.
Board President Doug Linney said this year has been the driest year "on record" in the East Bay, and urged customers to continue conserving water. East Bay residents and businesses used 13% less water in 2020 compared to 2013, when district officials said the last drought began.
"If you have room to conserve more, you can help our East Bay community by changing some habits, fixing leaks and limiting outdoor water use to be more water smart," Linney said.
District officials urged residents and business owners to repair leaks in toilets and irrigation systems, and adjust outdoor irrigation timers or manually water landscape up to three times a week. The latter should be done at dawn and dusk to avoid evaporation, officials said.
Water district officials said the board also voted on Tuesday to purchase "up to 58,000 acre feet of water" from the Sacramento River starting in August. One acre foot is the equivalent to one acre covered in a foot of water. The water can be delivered through the Freeport Regional Water Facility into the East Bay, officials said.
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