'We want a cold, wet winter': East Bay water districts face worst drought conditions in 6 years

Friday, September 24, 2021
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The reservoirs that more than a million East Bay residents rely on for their water, are well down and in some spots, bone dry.

CONTRA CONSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The pictures tell the story -- the reservoirs that more than a million East Bay residents rely on for their water, are well down and in some spots, bone dry.

The primary East Bay Municipal Utilities District Reservoir, Pardee in the high Sierra, is currently 80 percent full, but systemwide, the district's overall storage is just 57 percent That's the lowest it's been since 2015.

RELATED: Marin County's reservoirs dip to just 36% capacity

Camanche, an overflow reservoir downstream, is often low in the fall. This year, at just 42%, it's so low that the boat launch is high and dry, and completely unusable.

"Yes, we are uncomfortable right now," said EBMUD Spokesperson Nelsy Rodriguez. "It's not as dire as it can be. And we are preparing for more dire situations to come."

Still, so far, East bay Mud has declared just a Stage 1 drought emergency, and asked its 500,000 customers to conserve just 10 percent, and only on a voluntary basis.

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"If this winter is dry, we could be looking at increasing our drought stage to stage 2, drought stage 3 and 4, which would increase the requests for conservation," explained Rodriguez.

In the meantime, to the east, the smaller Contra Costa Water District is in a similar situation. Its main storage reservoir at Los Vaqueros is currently sitting at just 65% capacity. Like EBMUD though, CCWD is only asking for a voluntary reduction at this point, and also just 10 percent.

RELATED: CA reservoir levels reach record lows not seen since 1977, state says

"We're following the long-term drought contingency plans that we've put into place," said Jennifer Allen, CCWD Spokesperson. "Water districts in the Bay Area have different water supplies. We are pretty much dependent on the Delta. That is what we're diverting, but that is also how we fill Los Vaqueros reservoir."

It's what happens in the next few months, the traditional rainy season, that will determine if East Bay water districts move to higher drought tiers, and potentially mandatory reductions, or even drought surcharges.

"We're definitely hopeful for rain, snow is where it's at," said Rodriguez. "We want a cold, wet winter."