People living and working in the Dougherty Valley area of San Ramon face new water restrictions as their water provider works to address supply shortages amid statewide drought conditions.
"This is a serious drought," said Dan Gallagher, operations manager and drought coordinator for the Dublin San Ramon Services District. "The bottom line is we must reduce water use now or the demand will exceed the supply."
The Board of Directors of DSRSD, which provides potable water to the Dougherty Valley and the city of Dublin, voted last Monday to implement water limitations, penalties for violations, a new rate structure and enhancements to agency rebate programs -- all part of an effort to reduce usage system-wide by 25%.
"Six of the past seven years have been dry. The snowpack is 5% of normal. These dry conditions could persist even beyond this year, because multi-year droughts are common in California," Gallagher added. "That's why our board took all these actions."
The overarching goal behind the actions is to encourage customers to reduce their water use by at least 5% indoors and 50-60% outdoors, according to DSRSD.
Restrictions approved by the DSRSD board include bans on washing vehicles, boats and trailers at home, no refilling existing swimming pools or hot tubs without a demonstrated health or safety need, requirements that people must fix known leaks and prohibitions on using potable water to clean outdoor surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks, patios and building exteriors.
People must also cut outdoor irrigation by 50% and comply with limitations such as watering no more than one day per week in May and no more than two days per week June through September, no watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. or within three days after rain, and no runoff, puddling or flooding caused by irrigation.
Residential water use cannot exceed 639 gallons of water per day, which officials said is the equivalent of 50 units per bimonthly bill. One unit of water equals 748 gallons, and DSRSD argues "a reasonable amount of water for residential customer use is 55 gallons per person per day."
Each violation would be a misdemeanor under the California Water Code.
The first violation would result in an oral or written warning and instructions on how the customer must correct the issue. The second violation would result in a $250 penalty, third violation would cost $500 and a fourth violation would cost $1,000.
A fifth documented violation would result in a reduction of that customer's water supply or disconnection of water service.
"This is not about enforcing or penalizing people; it's to encourage people to do the right thing," DSRSD general manager Bert Michalczyk said.
He likened his agency's water enforcement mindset to police officers monitoring speeding, saying the focus is not about stopping people going six or seven miles per hour faster than the speed limit but rather about catching "the Mustang going 90 mph."
New water consumption rates will take effect June 1 throughout the district.
Residents who use no more than 10 units bimonthly will see their per-unit rate increase to 89.7 cents. Those in Tier 2, or 11-34 units bimonthly, will see their rates nearly double to $2.15 per unit, and third-tier residents at 34-plus units will pay $4.02 per unit.
All commercial customers will be charged $2.16 per unit (compared to the normal rate of $1.23) through October and $1.55 per unit (up from $1.03) from November to April. Potable irrigation customers will have their rates nearly triple to $4.02 per unit.
Customers' bimonthly bills would remain about the same, or lower, if they reduce their water use by 35% while the new rate structure is in effect, DSRSD officials said.
The agency's directors also approved of establishing a "Wise Water User Credit Program," which would offer a one-time $2 per month credit to residential customers with a demonstrated history of high conservation, among other criteria.
Additionally, DSRSD enhanced rebates for customers who make water-conscious moves such as installing high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, putting in pool or spa covers, using weather-based irrigation controllers and utilizing the lawn replacement program.
For more information on all DSRSD drought actions, call 828-0515 or visit the agency website.