East Bay eases up drought restrictions, downgrades to 'Stage 1' as reservoirs fill

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
East Bay downgrades to 'Stage 1' drought thanks to recent storms
The East Bay Municipal Utility District says, because of recent storms, it is now downgrading from a "Stage 2" drought to a "Stage 1" drought.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A silver lining to record-breaking storms that slammed the state of California in 2023: the East Bay's water supply reservoirs are expected to fully refill, which are currently 88% full.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) says, because of this, it is now downgrading from a "Stage 2" drought to a "Stage 1" drought.

This means the district, which is serving 1.4 million customers across both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, is suspending the excessive water use penalty ordinance for the time being, and it is moving from 10% mandatory conservation to 10% voluntary water use reduction.

RELATED: Governor Gavin Newsom ends some water limits after storms ease drought

"We are more than happy here at EBMUD, and I'm sure all of our customers are relieved that we've gotten the rain and the snow that we've been seeing this season," Andrea Pook, a spokesperson for EBMUD said.

This is in addition to already ending the 8% drought surcharge at the beginning of March.

On top of the heavy rain the region has experienced, with more runoff from snow expected to come, customers have also helped conserve 32,000 acre-feet of water since April of 2020.

MORE: Gov. Newsom pushes need for conservation during visit to SoCal water recycling facility

And while EBMUD is celebrating this news after years of restrictions, it says we are not quite out of the woods just yet.

"Yes, it's wet," Pook said. "Is conservation over? Not really and really never, forever because we live in a very dry climate and, in spite of the wetness, that we see, we know drought is cyclical in California, and in fact, it's only getting more so."

Although Governor Newsom has not declared an end to the drought just yet, this comes after he ended some of the state's water restrictions last Friday and that he would stop asking people to voluntarily cut their water use by 15 percent.

MORE: Bay Area, rest of CA fall short of Gov. Newsom's voluntary 15% water conservation target

Despite these restrictions easing up in the East Bay, EBMUD still has a ban on watering within 48 hours of rainfall, irrigating non-functional turf and washing cars without shut-off nozzles.

And more changes could be on the way.

EBMUD will be evaluating its snow and precipitation data for the year at the end of next month and depending on how things look, Pook says they may further ease restrictions by late April.

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