Starting this summer, EBMUD to add 8 percent drought surcharge

Photo by Jordan Hopkins on Unsplash

Facing down a second consecutive dry year, the East Bay Municipal Utility District board decided this week to impose an 8 percent drought surcharge that customers will see on bills starting July 1.

The estimated $30.8 million collected from the surcharge will cover about half the estimated $64.5 million needed to manage the drought this year, according to EBMUD. The rest of drought expenses will be funded by reserves. The surcharge is EBMUD’s latest step to address the region’s ongoing drought. Last month, in an effort to curb water use, the agency’s board of directors voted to mandate a 10 percent water-use reduction districtwide.

“We are making the best use of all our tools to handle drought, including purchasing water from partner agencies, increasing conservation from customers, and discouraging waste among high-volume users,” EBMUD Board President Doug Linney said in a news release after the board’s Tuesday meeting.

“These emergency actions are outside of our normal scope of work, and this drought surcharge will help us cover a portion of those costs.”

The 8 percent charge will be applied to customers’ flow charges — or the volume of water used — starting July 1. For an average single-family home using 200 gallons of water per day, the surcharge will amount to approximately 10 cents per day — or $3.08 more per month, according to the water agency.

In April 2021, EBMUD’s board declared a Stage 1 drought emergency after a dry winter left the agency’s reservoirs at 69 percent full. At that time customers were asked to voluntarily cut water use by 10 percent. The agency also initiated the purchase of 33,000-acre feet in supplemental supplies from the Sacramento River.

Last month, a second dry winter left EBMUD reservoirs at 71 percent full, prompting a Stage 2 drought emergency declaration and the 10 percent reduction mandate. In addition, the board reinstated an excessive use penalty ordinance and updated restrictions on outdoor water use. The 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 used 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 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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