San Leandro residents get water from the Upper San Leandro Reservoir, which still has enough from local runoff and the Sacramento River to support customer demand in this city. But as the weather warms up, algae often blooms in the Upper San Leandro Reservoir.
“Usually our treatment plant down there can treat the taste and odor compounds but it’s possible this year there may be a more pronounced or longer change noted by customers because we’re running the treatment plant at Upper San Leandro at a higher rate than normal because we’re filling the reservoir with more Sacramento River water than usual because of the drought,” said EBMUD spokeswoman Abby Figueroa.
Figueroa said the smell and taste of the water might change a little.
“It isn’t good or bad, just different, like when you travel to a new city and you’re not used to their tap water,” said Figueroa.
Other EBMUD customers are already tasting water that has been treated for algae.
Most years, the EBMUD water supply comes from snow runoff from the Mokelumne River watershed, which is then stored in the Pardee and Camanche reservoirs in the Sierra. But supplies there are low – about half of average – as the state is in the middle of its fourth year of drought.
EBMUD is required by law to preserve the deeper, colder water sitting in the Pardee reservoir for release later in the fall in order to preserve conditions for returning salmon. That means they are pumping water now that is closer to the surface, which is more sunlit and so has more algae.
The water is treated and safe, but about two-thirds of the utility’s 1.3 million customers started getting the Pardee water last week and may already be noticing a slight difference in taste, according to EMBUD spokeswoman Abby Figueroa.
This year, the drought forced the utility to buy $4 million per month worth of federally-owned water from the Sacramento River. The purchase of that water will likely result in a 25 percent surcharge for customers, which is being voted on by the EBMUD board in June. It’s being paid for by reserves in the interim.