East Bay Municipal Utility District to switch to water with increased algae levels

Ethan Epstein/Staff

Related Posts

The East Bay Municipal Utility District will make a valve change in its water supply Sunday in an effort to conserve water and improve river conditions for salmon.

This valve change will draw water from a higher depth level in the Pardee Reservoir — about 30 miles northeast of Stockton — which is warmer and has more algae than water deeper in the reservoir. Two-thirds of East Bay residents may notice a different taste and smell in their tap and shower water, resulting from increased algae levels. Berkeley residents raised concern about the noticeable taste and odor difference in March, when EBMUD previously made this valve change.

According to a news release from EBMUD, most years, the water supply comes from snowmelt and runoff in the Mokelumne River watershed, stored at the Pardee and Camanche reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada.

California’s drought and a year of record-low water storage projections have pushed EBMUD to preserve the cold water in the Pardee Reservoir over the summer and release it downstream in the fall, as well as fill two local reservoirs, the San Pablo and Upper San Leandro, with a two-month supply of Sacramento River water.

EBMUD said the water is safe to drink and meets or exceeds all state and federal public health standards; the only difference is the taste and odor.

A combination of different water sources, higher temperatures and less rain than usual is causing greater algal growth in water reservoirs this summer, according to the press release.

Although the algae is filtered out during water treatment, its taste and smell can be left behind. EBMUD recommends that customers use carbon filters to filter out any unwanted odor or taste from their water.

“It’s not ideal. But the alternatives are much worse,” said EBMUD General Manager Alexander Coate in the press release.

The city of Berkeley is also taking steps to partner with EBMUD to further local conservation efforts. City Councilmember Kriss Worthington is recommending to City Council that the city agree to an EBMUD water conservation pledge that vows to reduce 2015 water use by 20 percent compared with 2013 water use. The pledge would also increase existing mandatory limits on outdoor water use and implement new limits on customers’ indoor water use.

If Berkeley signs the pledge, potable water used for turf in public medians and decorative fountains will be prohibited, and EBMUD may also implement flow-restricting devices on the service lines of customers who willfully violate water restrictions and regulations.

The city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission and the Public Works Commission will be working to provide recommendations to City Council in the fall on how Berkeley can meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to reduce urban water use by 25 percent by the end of the year, said Luis Amezcua, chair of the advisory commission, in an email.

“The commission will also be looking at ways Berkeley can be more resilient to the impacts of extreme drought and climate change,” Amezcua said.

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].