Emeryville park stays green despite drought

February 10, 2009 7:28:04 PM PST
Due to the seriousness of the drought, the East Bay Municipal Utility District has mandatory restrictions in its customers in place. For the most part, the district's one million customers are doing their part. However, there are a few glaring exceptions.

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While some lawns in the East Bay are withering in the drought, new grass in Emeryville's Marina Park is flourishing. The difference is water.

Maurice Kaufman is the public works director for the city of Emeryville, which increased its institutional use of water from EBMUD by 44 percent in just the past year.

Laura Anthony: "Were you surprised to learn that the usage was up 44 percent?

Maurice Kaufman: "I was definitely surprised."

The main culprit is two acres of lush new landscaping at Emeryville's Marina Park. While other EBMUD customers were conserving 10, 15, 20 percent, Emeryville was splurging.

"About a year ago, just the shrubs were being watered, but now it's more lawn areas that need to have more water," said Kaufman.

Emeryville did pay $1,600 in drought surcharges to EBMUD which penalizes customers who exceed their monthly allotment.

"Sometimes the water use will go up because there was no prior water use and they may be under contract to complete a job. But we work with them and we offer our services and hope they contact us to help them be as efficient as they can be from the start," said Richard Harris, EBMUD's manager of water conservation.

When the city of Emeryville started the landscape project, there were no drought restrictions. By the time it was finished last year, they say they had to water to protect their $2 million investment, even though many of the plants used are what's called drought-resistant.

"We're trying to get those plants established so that we can shut off the water and not have to use as much water during this period of drought," said Kaufman.

Another contributor to Emeryville's high water usage involves vandals who stole brass fittings from the sprinklers, causing leaks.

Now, Emeryville vows to do better. The stolen fittings will be replaced and the sprinklers turned off, at least for the time being.

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