Danville Express

Newsfront - May 25, 2007

Danville gets A-plus in water conservation

Drought of 1980s spurred wise water practices in town

by Natalie O'Neill

Danville is ahead of the game when it comes to water conservation.

East Bay Municipal Utilities District is urging Contra Costa and Alameda counties to voluntarily conserve water to avoid a drought this summer. But here in Danville, most of the city-wide irrigation recommendations are already being met by the town.

"As far as the most recent request, we've been doing it all along," said Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.

Town maintenance already has drip and bubble irrigation, turf sports fields, water-conserving sprinkler heads, drought tolerant landscaping and mulch in some areas to retain moisture.

These methods for city-wide conservation are right on track, says Charles Bohlig, supervisor of water conservation at EBMUD.

But that's not to say individual residents and businesses can't do better, said EBMUD spokesman Charles Hardy.

"Were asking people not to water their lawns more than three days a week and always at night," he said.

The district is also currently considering raising water rates by 5 percent, which would increase the cost of water by about $1.50 per month for an average family, EBMUD spokesman Jeff Becerra said. The increased rates would help fund capital projects for drought protection, and the raised rates would be effective in July.

After one of the driest winters in almost a century, snow pack run off in the Sierra Nevada - a water source for 1.3 million EBMUD users - is decreasing.

Checking for water leaks, and upgrading plumbing and old appliances are a good first step, Hardy said. Replacing earlier model dishwashers and toilets conserves a lot of water and can save users money on their water bills, he said.

"Look at dishwashing and irrigation and make sure it's water-efficient," he said. "Older toilets are notorious and you can hear it when they're leaky."

Weather-based irrigation control, technology to make the best use of water irrigation, can also be used on town residential and commercial levels, he said.

The technology, which is at www.ebmud.com, allows users to figure exactly how much water they need by factoring in soil, sun, temperature, slope and shade on a daily basis.

"It's pretty slick. They take everything into account and it calculates what it takes to have healthy green trees or lawns," Bohlig said.

Danville is known as one of the most water-conscious towns in the East Bay, Calabrigo said. In part, this is because of the changes the residents and town management made in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a drought altered the town's thinking about water.

"There's nothing like a crisis," Calabrigo said, to get people into good habits.

When the East Bay suffered effects from the drought, Calabrigo remembered how cost prohibitive water was in Danville.

"It was a status symbol if your lawn turned brown," he recalled.

"Undoubtedly people have memories of the drought and have changed their habits ... They got into the mode of having better, wiser water habits," Hardy said.

Even with an expanding population in the East Bay, water use has remained the same in the last 25 years, Hardy said.

The water provided by EBMUD is some of the best in California, as the Sierra snow packs aren't near any agricultural farms and can avoid soil, pesticide and manure run-off, EBMUD representatives said.

Despite the larger population on the west sides of the water district, about two-thirds of the water is used east of the hills, where Danville is located.

The reason for this is because of agriculture and open space, Hardy said.

"Lawns are bigger over there," he said.

This being said, most of the responsibility rests on the eastern region to be more water-conscious, Hardy said.

"Everything we can do to conserve, we will," Calabrigo said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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