On Tuesday, the EBMUD board of directors declared a “Stage 4 critical drought,” requiring mandatory cutbacks of 20 percent from all 1.3 million of its customers.
The new water restrictions will likely come with 25 percent rate increases, according to EBMUD spokeswoman Abby Figueroa. The rate increase is to buy 11 billion gallons of government-owned water from the Sacramento River.
The EBMUD board will be voting on a surcharge to pay for the Sacramento River water in June and it is being paid for through budget reserves until then.
If the surcharge is approved, the average user’s monthly water bill will go up by about $12 to about $49. The people that use the most could see their bill go up by over $100, according to EBMUD.
All this comes on the heels of a general 20 percent EBMUD rate increase that has been implemented over the past two years.
The district is now requiring all residents to use at least 20 percent less water each month, based off their 2013 levels. The average residential use is 246 gallons per day.
The board also approved penalties aimed at the highest 2 percent of water users. Pending a public hearing on April 28, customers in the highest 2 percent of water users could face penalties of up to $2 per unit (750 gallons) that exceeds the mandatory 20 percent reduction.
EBMUD has seven reservoirs, and the two largest – Pardee and Camanche – are at about half of their average amount of water for this time of year. The district estimates that that could be down to one-third of average by the end of the summer.
Figueroa says they have simply not gotten enough rain for too long. Water in EBMUD storage had declined each of the past four years, and only 1977 had a smaller amount of water stored at the end of the water year than is estimated for the end of this water year.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the EBMUD board set up outdoor watering restrictions. Previously, people could only water two days a week and that still stands, but now people cannot water between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
There can also be no watering 48 hours after measurable rain. The board also approved fines of up to $3,000 for those caught stealing from or misusing fire hydrants.
If approved, the changes in price will start showing up on water bills in July.