EBMUD declares ‘stage 2’ drought emergency, reinstates penalties for excessive water use

EBMUD water customers who consume more than 1,646 gallons per day will be assessed a surcharge under new drought restrictions implemented by the district this week. (Photo courtesy of John Chacon/California Department of Water Resources)

Aiming to curb water use, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District has mandated a 10 percent reduction districtwide, EBMUD officials said, citing a dry winter as the reason.

The vote was 6-1 to declare a stage 2 drought emergency, following the declaration of a stage 1 drought emergency a year ago. In stage 1, EBMUD asked customers to conserve water on a voluntary basis.

Stage 2 aims to cut water use by 10 percent compared with 2020, reinstates an excessive use penalty ordinance and updates restrictions on outdoor water use.

“Despite a strong rainy start in October and December, the dry winter has compelled us to move into our next phase of action to ensure we have adequate supplies in case the drought continues next year,” EBMUD Board President Douglas Linney said in a statement following Tuesday’s decision.

The excessive use penalty is charged to households that use more than 1,646 gallons per day. After one warning, households will be charged $2 for every 748 gallons they use above the penalty threshold.

Outdoor watering is now limited to three times per week, washing sidewalks and driveways is prohibited and cafes and restaurants may provide water only upon request.

EBMUD’s board in the future may impose a surcharge to cover the cost of buying supplemental water supplies and other costs related to the drought. If imposed, the surcharge would add about 10 cents a day to a customer’s bill. Officials from the utilities district said covering the costs of the drought out of the agency’s reserves is financially infeasible, hence the surcharge.

EBMUD serves more than a million Alameda County and Contra Costa County customers with drinking water. The agency also provides wastewater service.

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