22 Berkeley residents fined for excessive water use

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On Thursday, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, or EBMUD, released a list of customers in the region penalized for excessive water use, which included 22 Berkeley residents.

EBMUD determined that in July and August, 1,108 customers whose information was disclosed had consumption rates that violated the Excessive Water Use Penalty Ordinance, a misdemeanor in accordance with California Water Code. Effective since May 29, the ordinance states that single-family residential customers who use more than 80 units or 59,840 gallons of water per billing period are subject to a $2 penalty for each unit over the limit.

The same ordinance requires the disclosure of customer names, addresses and consumption data if the district determines that there has been a violation of water use policies and if the information is requested via a Public Records Act request, according to EBMUD spokesperson Abby Figueroa.

Before the ordinance, EBMUD did not release names of customers with excessive use except in 1991, when the district was court-ordered to release names of high users to the Oakland Tribune.

While the list of customers with excessive use were only those who were billed from Sept. 1 through Sept. 25, Figueroa said that EBMUD plans on releasing more names after the current billing cycle, which is approximately 60 days long.

Penalties for those excessive use customers on the initial list ranged from $2 to $1,858, Figueroa said.

This year, EBMUD declared a Stage 4 critical water drought status, and as of Oct. 18, the total system storage in the district was 45 percent full.

“What people can do to reduce their use and stay under the excessive use threshold is to find and fix leaks, abide by the outdoor water restrictions, and contact our Water Conservation staff for further assistance and suggestions,” Figueroa said in an email.

Out of the 22 Berkeley residents listed as excessive water consumers, the highest consumption rate was by Venkat Lakireddy at about 2,194 gallons per day, or 96 units, over the limit. The customers who ranked the lowest on the list only consumed 2 units more than what is considered excessive.

Berkeley residents listed as excessive users could not be reached for comment.

“As a city, we try to set an example,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko in an email. “We are always looking for ways to conserve.”

According to a report released this month on the city’s water conservation efforts, 57 percent of the water used in Berkeley is by residents. The city reduced irrigation by 46 percent compared with 2013 levels, according to the same report.

Among those at the top of the list included Danville resident Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations, who was reported to consume just short of 6,000 gallons of water a day, and Alamo resident Mark Pine, a venture capitalist and CEO of Ubokia.com, who was reported to consume 8,091 gallons a day.

Danville resident and former executive of Chevron George Kirkland topped the list at 12,579 gallons a day, which is 694,892 gallons more than the limit set by EBMUD’s ordinance.

All customers on the list had 15 days to submit an appeal for reasons of billing error, proof of a repaired leak or for health and safety.

Of the 33 customers who submitted appeals, only three were approved and their names were removed from the list. For 25 individuals who are pending appeals, their names were excluded from the list but may appear on a future list, according to Figueroa.

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].