Conversation Piece: Water woes

Conversation Piece: Water woes

Michele Ellson

Photo courtesy of the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

In mid-April, the East Bay Municipal Utility District adopted mandatory water use restrictions in response to Governor Jerry Brown's mandate that Californians conserve.

Water district officials voted to ask customers to use 20 percent less water than they used in 2013, though district staff expect that homeowners, apartment dwellers, business owners and other classes of customers will conserve at different rates. So far, the district hasn't laid down penalties for failure to conserve.

So, our questions for today: What are you doing to conserve water? And what penalties do you think the water district should impose on people who don't cut their water use?

Let us know by posting a comment below. And if you're a water super saver, give us a shout at letting us know what you're doing to save - we'd love to write a story about you.


Submitted by Keith Nealy (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

The simplest thing that could be done would be to incorporate all of the extraneous charges on our water bills into the usage. Right now my actual water usage accounts for only 22% of my bill. If I reduce my usage by 20% I'll only save a few bucks. People will use less if it costs more to use more. Since actual usage is only a portion of the bill, there's not much incentive to save except a moral one, which is certainly a good one. But it'd probably be more effective to have a more direct connection between usage and cost.

EBMUD should just figure out what the total money needed is, and then roll all costs into a rate structure that would recover that amount based on usage alone.

Submitted by Kurt Peterson (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

I find it hard to believe that with this water shortage (which EBMUD has been aware of for some time now), the District continues to authorize new developments of 500 homes or less. That fact was given to me by the Water District Board when I brought up the question at one of their meetings a few months ago. How do you justify this action when you are asking your current customers to use less water or face fines?

As for the fining possibility, the district should determine an allowance per resident rather than per household. A household of 4 should receive a larger allocation than a household of 2. Maybe the district could use the latest census numbers, when possible, to help make that determination.

Submitted by Gale (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

I read that the biggest home use of water is lawns and flushing toilets. Our five-unit building has a tiny patch of lawn, so not so much as five houses. My family only flushes for pee every other time. Showers are short. We run the dishwasher only when full; likewise for laundry. We make sure leaks are repaired as soon as possible. Not sure how much more we can do. It's a shame that people in homes who've been conserving all along can be penalized the same as people who haven't.

Submitted by Lester Cabral (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

I believe we are all using less water, but what is fair, If I use a 100 gallons of water a day in 2013 and now I should only use 80 that not fair.
In 1977 we were told to use only 300 gallons a day. What needs to be done is to show who are the large water user and find ways to cut back there use. The other big question is were is this penalty money going to, It should be used only to find and store more water.

Submitted by Jean (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

We wash dishes by hand and use the used water on the plants. We have no lawn, only container plants. We have not needed to water them otherwise since we began using the dishwater. My husband also washed the car with used dishwater (NOT recommended by me).

Submitted by Teri (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

We are fortunate that our home was landscaped with drought-tolerant plants when we bought it. I have completely stopped watering the backyard, as most of the plants back there are well-established and can use taproots to get water, and save shower warm-up water in buckets to hand water those plants that need help. Still trying to get the rest of the family to take shorter showers...

Submitted by Chris Muir (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

The percentage-based restrictions are considerably harder on people who have been conserving all along. When I moved back to Alameda ten years ago, I immediately swapped out all the toilets for low water usage, and replaced the water-heavy appliances. I put in drip irrigation. I recently removed my weed patch (which used to be a lawn) which hadn't been watered in a couple years so the weeds were the only survivors. We capture the water "wasted" by running until it gets hot in the shower and sinks to use either flushing or on potted plants. There hasn't been much in the way of low hanging fruit for water conservation at my house for a long time.

What really gets me about the water restrictions is that even if we took residential water use down to zero, the state would only extend it's water "runway" another month, more-or-less. Until we get serious about how water is really used and stored in this state the residential restrictions are theater.

Submitted by Herb Banksy (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

Washing dishes by hand actually consumes more water!

Submitted by Keith Nealy (not verified) on Mon, May 4, 2015

One thing I've learned since bucketing sink and shower water is how much water we use that goes down the drain that could be recycled as gray water. Many communities have a separate water systems for potable, gray, and sewage. Why not put money into making this approach universal? We could save massive amounts of water, and save carrying buckets back and forth all day.

Submitted by b. (not verified) on Tue, May 5, 2015

Tried to post this a couple of days ago, and for some reason got shuffled to a "You've been blocked by our spam filter" message. I thought it was because I was trying to post a link to a story about new desalination technology. Seeing the link in the post two above proves that may not be the case.

At any rate, my post was bringing up this point:

Why (instead of instantly squeezing "the little guy" don't the "Districts" like EBMUD put a significant amount of money toward NEW technologies like this one here:

There's an entire ocean of water out there that would make all this nonsense a moot point. The "powers that be" should be throwing tons of money at these guys to bring NEW desalination technologies on-line soon!