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Tri-Valley area could see higher drought rates

Customers of the Dublin San Ramon Services District are being asked to cut their water usage by 35 percent.
April 22, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
An East Bay community could become the first to implement higher drought rates for water. On Tuesday night, the Dublin San Ramon Services District Board will hold a meeting to discuss the proposed increase.

If the plan gets approved, then residents of Livermore, Dublin and part of San Ramon would pay more money for using the exact same amount of water as they do today. It's all part of an effort to reduce overall usage by 35 percent.

If you want green grass, prepare to shell out some extra cash in the Tri-Valley.

"It's a situation that's very critical in this valley," said Bert Michalczyk, the district board general manager.

Already the Dublin San Ramon Services District Board has asked families to reduce water usage by 5 percent indoors and 50 percent outdoors. Now they're using money as a motivation to get people to turn off the sprinkler and conserve.

"For a family of four, at the rate the board is talking about tonight, their bill would increase by just under $20 if they did not conserve at all," said Michalczyk.

The board would use the extra cash to finance conservation efforts, like building out more recycled water access and offering rebates for low-flow appliances.

"I think it's fair that people need to pay their share and if you are not going to conserve that you pay the price for it," said Desiree Ralph, who supports the rate hike. She doesn't want the pocketbook pinch, so she's willing to let her yard go golden. "I'm OK with losing the grass. If that's what I have to sacrifice, I'm OK with that."

But not everyone we spoke to feels the same way.

"I probably would still water more. You know, I don't want to see it die, especially if you have a big yard, water the grass, keep the flowers looking nice at all times. So I'd pay the extra $20 to keep it going," said San Ramon resident Dave Jones.

A meeting to discuss the proposal with the public took place Tuesday night. The board expects to vote on the rate hike May 5. If it passes, drought rates would go into effect June 1.

"If the customers do the right thing and achieve the level of conservation, they won't have an impact on their water bill at all," said Michalczyk.

If residents don't start conserving it could threaten storage levels for fighting fires.

"We will actually start shutting customers off at that point, if that's what it comes to. It's not a very likely scenario, but it is a credible scenario that we're planning for if it comes to that," said Bert Michalczyk, the Dublin San Ramon Services District general manager.

The water district is also proposing to ban big customers from using drinking water for irrigation. That's why schools, like Dublin High, are preparing to hook up to the recycled water system.

Cities and schools are the largest consumers of water and that's why the City of Dublin is turning off its water features and fountains. The water playland at Shannon Park will be used only at certain times.

"We plan on turning on the water features at both Emerald Glen and Shannon this summer when it goes over 90 degrees," said Chris Foss, the acting city manager for Dublin.

It's a serious issue for the 67,000 customers of the Dublin San Ramon Services District.


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