Local theater group puts on drought-focused performance amid water restrictions

Michael Wan/Staff

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On Friday evening, about 250 children, parents and residents observed a performance at Live Oak Park focused on the ongoing drought as a part of the city of Berkeley’s efforts to increase water conservation awareness.

The skit — complete with juggling, stilts and a unicycle — drew attention to water restrictions the East Bay Municipal Utility District has implemented after it declared a 20 percent cutback on water use in April. The district’s announcement came after an executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown mandating that state water usage be reduced by 25 percent.

Featuring a performance by EarthCapades, a theater group focused on environmental issues, the event was coordinated by the city’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development and funded by EBMUD. It preceded a screening of “Big Hero 6,” the last film of the city’s Movies in the Park summer event.

“Not a single person can survive without it,” said EarthCapades member Lissin Lev Chaya during the performance, referring to the necessity of water. “Which makes it all so important to conserve it.”

In 2014, Berkeley cut its own water use by 26 percent, according to a May city press release. Among other water conservation methods, the city stopped watering medians this year and reduced landscape watering to two days a week. According to the press release, these steps will “better position the City to more sustainably use water long-term.”

City operations account for only 2 percent of Berkeley’s water use, according to the press release.

In addition to outlining EBMUD water restrictions, one EarthCapades performer — while on a unicycle and with the help of a volunteer child from the audience — discussed water-saving “devices” such as reusable water bottles, low-flow shower heads and a plunger, which represented fixing toilet and sink leaks.

“It’s fun to captivate both kids and parents,” Lev Chaya said. “Hopefully some of the water conservation messages stick.”

Water restrictions have been largely successful in the East Bay region, according to EBMUD spokesperson Abby Figueroa. In June and July, there was a 31 percent reduction of water use across all customer groups compared with water-use rates in 2013, according to Figueroa, surpassing EBMUD’s communitywide goal of a 20 percent reduction from 2013 use rates.

California, in its fourth year of drought, has seen dismal levels of rainfall and melted snowpack, forcing water suppliers to place restrictions on cities and residents alike in order to comply with the state mandate. Figueroa said residents should prepare to make lasting changes to their water usage as long as the drought continues.

“Even if the drought were to end this coming winter … there’s another drought around the corner,” Figueroa said.

Noting that droughts will become more frequent and severe, Figueroa said EBMUD hopes to help people make these water conservation efforts permanent habits.

“There’s a high awareness that water is a community resource,” Figueroa said. “It’s not up to one person but the entire community that needs to do the right thing.”

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ayoonhendricks.

A previous version of this article may have implied that EBMUD spokesperson Abby Figueroa said mandatory water restrictions will not be lifted even if the drought ends. In fact, Figueroa said that restrictions may be lifted if the drought ends but that residents should make permanent changes to their outdoor water in order to prepare for the possibility of another drought.