EBMUD declares emergency water shortage, issues mandatory restrictions

Lorenz Angelo Gonzales/Staff

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The East Bay’s largest water supplier declared an emergency water shortage Tuesday afternoon and issued mandatory water restrictions.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s seven-member board unanimously voted to require outdoor water reductions in line with statewide restrictions announced last month. The move follows EBMUD’s voluntary 10 percent water conservation recommendation announced in February, which is still in effect.

Under the mandatory action, EBMUD customers — who amount to 1.3 million people — will only be permitted to water outdoor landscapes a maximum of two times per week. They must also prevent excess runoff when watering.

“The point is, we don’t want people to think, ‘OK, I can water twice a week and then water five hours each time,’ ” said Andrea Pook, spokesperson for the utility district.

Brooms or air blowers, rather than water, will be the only permissible means to clean hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways. The only exception, Pook said, is in areas where cleaning without water would create a health or safety issue.

Additionally, hoses can only be used to wash vehicles if they contain a shut-off nozzle.

“People sometimes turn on a hose and rinse off their car while the hose is still on,” Pook said. “It’s kind of like the car version of brushing your teeth while leaving the water running.”

Under the new protocols, fountains and decorative water features must be turned off unless they use recirculated water.

Water agencies have the power to fine customers who ignore water restrictions. EBMUD can also shut off or restrict water flow to “really bad water wasters,” according to Pook, although it’s uncommon for the utility district to resort to such enforcement.

California is facing one of the most severe droughts on record, with depleted groundwater and reservoirs far below capacity. Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency in January and asked Californians to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. For EBMUD customers, about 40 percent of residential water is used for outdoor purposes.

Kimberly Veklerov is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.