East Bay could see water rationing

April 23, 2008 11:06:54 AM PDT
If you live in the East Bay, water restrictions may be coming to a lawn near you. We haven't had nearly enough rain this spring, water levels are low and East Bay MUD may limit your ability to water your grass or wash your car.

As recently as Tuesday, the Department of Water Resources reported the snow pack in the Sierra is average. But there's not enough in the right places for EBMUD, which soon may impose mandatory rationing of water for the first time in nearly 20 years.

What certainly looked like a bountiful supply of snow in the high Sierra earlier this year, is now a pittance according to the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which announced mandatory water rationing may be just around the corner.

"If things don't change, that's where we're headed for sure," says East Bay MUD Spokesman Charles Hardy.

According to Hardy, the latest measurements, as of two days ago at Caples Lake Near Donner Summit, reveal snow depths that are just 53 percent of normal. The water content in that snow is just 72 percent of what it should be this time of year.

"It's not guesswork. We know what we have. We know what's up there and we now what we need, and if we don't get a certain amount soon, then we have to protect what we have," says Hardy.

Right now, storage in East Bay MUD's primary reservoir, Pardee, is just 89 percent of normal. Same goes for its reservoirs in the East Bay. Lake Camanche, east of Lodi, is just 49 percent full.

"In the Bay Area, March was probably the driest of record, April so far has been the driest of record. We're just looking at a lot less water coming out of our snow pack than we would normally expect," says EBMUD Director of Operations Mike Wallis.

Unless there are several big storms on the way, in three weeks East Bay MUD's board of directors will likely declare a drought emergency and vote for mandatory rationing -- for the first time since 1989.

That would mean higher rates for heavy water users, limitations on water, washing cars and driveways; even a moratorium on the installation of new lawns and swimming pools this summer.

"I think those are some of the easier decisions we can make. The board will need to make some difficult decisions. We need to manage a limited supply of water," says EBMUD board member Andy Katz.

The forecast for the next 15 days is mostly dry, meaning EBMUD's board of directors could approve mandatory rationing as soon as their next meeting on May 13th.


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