Berkeley announces measures for water conservation

In the midst of what officials say may be California’s worst drought in at least a century, the city of Berkeley is taking a step forward to advance its water conservation efforts.

According to a report from the city manager’s office released Friday, the city will reduce its water use by 10 percent, prevent future water leakage through infrastructure inspections and distribute reclaimed water. The city is currently working closely with the East Bay Municipal Utility District on future water-reduction projects and on helping educate the Berkeley population on water conservation.

The issue was discussed at the City Council’s Feb. 25 meeting, during which council members requested that the Public Works and Community Environmental Advisory Commissions look into mandatory or voluntary policies for water consumption and emphasized the need for public outreach and education efforts in the community about the issue.

“We work hard to educate and offer incentives to help people get the message that conservation is important,” said district spokesperson Andrea Pook, adding that since last year, customers have been consuming 7 percent less water.

According to Pook, last week’s storm raised this season’s precipitation levels in the East Bay from 15 inches to 18.5 inches. Still, the expected level of rainfall for this time of year is almost twice that amount.

The city’s future plans follow in the footsteps of the district’s recent conservation efforts. On Feb. 11, the company announced its commitment to reduce water usage among its customers by 10 percent, along with a 20 percent reduction for its own facilities.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an official drought state of emergency for the state. The district has yet to do the same for the East Bay and has launched “aggressive” conservation programs to prevent having to do so, Pook said.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin noted that even though Berkeley has historically been at the forefront as an environmentally conscious community, the city can still be more active in reducing its overall water consumption.

“While I commend the city for using recycled water and finding ways to reduce water consumption, I think that there is much more that we can do,” Arreguin said.

Both Arreguin and Pook emphasize the importance of public education on water consumption. Arreguin acknowledges that Berkeley residents have “stepped up to the plate” but hopes to see the city reduce its water footprint by teaming up with the district and working with the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission to promote efforts through social media, the city website and community meetings.

“What we want our customers to focus on is (fixing their) leaks and (checking their) landscapes,” Pook said, adding that while the drought is unfortunate, it is a “great chance to educate the community.”

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