Contra Costa Co. prepares for water cuts

May 1, 2009 6:55:54 PM PDT
Mandatory water rationing rules are now in effect in one Bay Area county, while another is wondering if it'll be able to enforce its rationing program.

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Leo Mangante was one of 30 meter readers to hit the streets in the Contra Costa Water District on Friday morning. The goal was to read all 61,000 meters in the district by Monday.

It's part of the district's effort to give its 550,000 customers a fresh start as they embark on a plan to reduce water usage by 15 percent.

"The idea is we'll get all customers read at the same time and we'll be able to start our drought management program with everybody on the same playing field," said Gina Oltman from the Contra Costa Water District.

The program prohibits hosing off sidewalks and driveways, but does not require all customers to reduce their individual usage by 15 percent.

Most residents who use less than 1,000 gallons per day would not be penalized, as long as their usage doesn't increase.

Customers who use more than 1,000 gallons per pay and who exceed their previous average could pay four times as much for the excess water used.

Contra Costa water officials believe most of their customers can meet their conservation goal by simply cutting back on the amount of water they use for their landscaping.

Homeowner Judy Eshbach has a plan to do her part at the expense of her lawn.

"I'm just going to let the grass dry up in the summer. I just don't have a choice," said Eshbach.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District began its 15 percent mandatory rationing program five weeks ago.

Since then, the district has seen its supplies jump due to heavy runoff from the Sierra and increased allocations from state and federal sources.

Now, it's unclear whether local cities will support the fines and higher prices needed to make a mandatory rationing program work.

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