Ration that water | May 23, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - May 23, 2008

Ration that water

EBMUD expects 19 percent cut in residents' water use

by Meghan Neal

Due to two consecutive dry years and an abysmal March and April rainfall, folks in Contra Costa and Alameda counties are now being required to ration their water use, or risk being charged extra.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District implemented the rations May 13 in order to safeguard the area's dwindling water supply.

"We are in a severe drought," said spokeswoman Andrea Pook. "It's become a mandatory situation and there's a reason for that."

EBMUD's goal is to reduce the water usage district-wide by 15 percent; for single-family households this means required cutbacks of 19 percent.

Residents may not water their lawns or gardens two days in a row or more than three times a week; use water for decorative ponds or fountains; wash cars using hoses without a shut-off nozzle; rinse sidewalks or patios; and must observe other similar restrictions.

"The situation must be very serious because they have acted with extreme urgency," said Danville Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.

EBMUD's board discussed implementing drought rates that would increase the cost of water to offset the financial loss caused by the rationing. Water utility charges for most single-family customers would go up 10 percent.

Discussion will resume at a July 8 board meeting and public hearing. If approved, the drought rate plan would also include a surcharge for customers who are still using more than 90 percent of their water budget, based on their average bill over the last three years.

Customers would be charged $2 for each extra unit of water used. One unit equals 748 gallons and a single-family customer in the Danville area typically uses about 350 gallons per day, according to Pook. Therefore those who don't sufficiently cut back their usage would face a penalty of about $2 per day.

Some residents say this is inherently unfair to families who have already been making a conscious effort to conserve water - where will the extra 19 percent come from? On the other hand, those who have used their water generously would find it much easier to avoid the fee.

To address this, EBMUD is sparing customers who use very small amounts of water - less than 100 gallons per day - from the 10 percent rate increase and the surcharge.

"We're all sort of in this together and hoping that people will do their best to get us through this summer," said Pook. "It's in everybody's best interest that we really do everything we can as a community and as a water district to safeguard that supply."

EBMUD is working to get the word out to residents, calling homes and leaving a three-minute automated message explaining the drought situation and offering suggestions on how to conserve.

Danville town staff members were to hold a meeting Thursday to brainstorm ways the town itself can comply with restrictions.

"From the town's perspective, we've got 400 acres of parks, medians, roadsides," Calabrigo said. "We're not going to be able to implement this tomorrow. We're trying to be as proactive as we can.

"We think we use our water resources pretty effectively. We conserve on a regular basis, obviously balancing the need to try to the keep the parks and the facilities looking good."

The last time there was a water shortage the town put in artificial turf in some places and installed a computerized irrigation system to help keep track of the amount of water used.

Unfortunately, water features in parks and ponds for children to play in are on the top of EBMUD's list of suggestions of things to cut, which could put a damper on residents' enjoyment of the upcoming warm summer months, said Calabrigo.

"I'm sure that we'll have some folks that are concerned and unhappy but I know they'll temper that with an understanding of the need to conserve," he said. "I think that people have responded to the challenge in the past, and I would expect that all of our community would do its best to cut back."


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