The East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors on Tuesday voted for a 14 percent fee hike on all water used by customers and a call for more water conservation.
That means the average customer will now pay an average of $4.30 per month more, depending on their level of conservation, until the drought costs are paid. EBMUD also is asking customers to conserve about 37 gallons more per day.
EMBUD directors also voted to increase the call for voluntary conservation to 15 percent effective Jan. 1, and to make a second purchase of water from its dry-year supply on the Sacramento River, according to the utility district. If needed next year, EBMUD could move forward with plans for mandatory conservation, drought surcharges and penalties for excessive use next summer. An earlier version of this plan was presented at four community meetings this fall to gather public input.
“This is our third dry year in a row. Our customers’ ongoing conservation before and during this drought is one reason why we have not had to ask for harsh cutbacks,” Board President Andy Katz said in a statement. “We do expect some more rain this winter, but possibly not enough. It is prudent to prepare to ask our customers to cut back a little more in case our reservoirs don’t refill this winter and the drought continues.”
A typical EBMUD household uses an average 246 gallons per day. A 15 percent reduction is 37 gallons less. Between February and November, EBMUD said its customers have reduced their use 12.6 percent compared to 2013.
Still, EBMUD said the fee increase proposal is more than just conserving water. Water costs money.
In April, BMUD purchased and delivered about 18,600 acre feet of water from the Sacramento River. (One acre foot is 325,851 gallons, or approximately the amount of water used by three average East Bay households in a year.) The approximate $8 million cost of purchasing, pumping and treating that water was absorbed by the district through a surplus sale of a Castro Valley property and budget savings over the past fiscal year, the district said.
On Tuesday, the Board of Directors made a second purchase of federal water before a Feb. 28 deadline. EBMUD has 41,625 acre feet available to purchase before the deadline. Staff will recommend the board approve buying 16,000 acre feet starting in January to refill local reservoirs. If a federal allocation is received on March 1 and if there has not been enough rain in the EBMUD watershed, staff will recommend making an additional purchase of up to 19,000 acre feet.
This purchased water would flow for four months from the Sacramento River into the EBMUD system through the Freeport Regional Water Facility in Sacramento County, EBMUD said. The cost to purchase, pump and treat it is estimated to cost up to $16 million.
However, unlike last spring, this time staff will recommend the cost be recouped via a 14 percent surcharge on all customers’ water use charges to take effect as soon as the pumps are turned on.
If the drought continues into next summer, staff is recommending higher surcharges be considered to recoup the costs of future water purchases, increased conservation outreach and lost revenue due to the drought.
The board of directors meets at the EBMUD Administration Building at 375 11th Street in Oakland at 1:15 p.m.