EBMUD May Resort to Rationing

The record dry spell that has left the East Bay Municipal Utility District in California dry since February may require mandatory water rationing to safeguard the district's shrinking supply.

Under EBMUD's comprehensive water shortage response plan, if spring runoff projections fall short of 450,000 acre feet of water in storage at the end of the water year this fall, the board of directors could require mandatory rationing and drought restrictions. Current data and a 15-day dry forecast indicate the district could fall below that projection by May 1.

To illustrate the problem, current data shows the Sierra snowpack that makes up the bulk of the district's water supply is only yielding about half of what it is normally expected in runoff.

Usually, this is the time of year snow high in the Sierra Mountains melts and meanders down into the district's Pardee Reservoir -- where 90 percent of the district's drinking water comes from, 90-plus miles away. But instead of the water supply in Pardee (and Camanche, the flood control reservoir below it) increasing, they are actually both decreasing with the small amount of runoff.

The water shortage in the Mokelumne watershed also affects others in addition to the district's 1.3 million water customers. Other water rights holders will have their allotments reduced or completely eliminated, and water released into the river for fish and habitat will be reduced.

The board could increase the cost of water and place limits on the number of days outdoor watering can occur and the amount of water customers can use overall.

The district's board of directors may make a decision at their next regular meeting on May 13.

"January's ample snowpack is quickly disappearing due to record dry weather and if it continues, it will leave our reservoirs at critically low levels," said Dennis Diemer, the district's general manager, "and this could trigger a need for water restrictions."

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