New restrictions on outdoor water use

New restrictions on outdoor water use

Michele Ellson
Chuck Corica Golf Complex

The Chuck Corica Golf Complex is irrigated with recycled water. Photo by Dave Boitano.

East Bay water officials approved new restrictions this week that limit watering of lawns and landscaping and other outdoor uses.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s board declared a water emergency on Tuesday and implemented rules limiting watering of lawns and landscapes to twice a week and prohibiting the use of water to clean sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces unless such a cleaning is needed for health and safety purposes.

Fountains and other decorative outdoor water features must be shut down, and if you’re washing your car, you can no longer use a hose that lacks a shutoff nozzle.

Water agency officials say they won’t ticket or fine violators of the new water restrictions, though the district’s new rules allow managers to require repeat offenders to install equipment to limit the flow of water they get – and to discontinue service if the violations continue.

The rules were put into effect following a State Water Resources Control Board mandate to urban water suppliers issued July 15. Up to now, the East Bay water district has asked its customers to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10 percent, a goal its spokespeople say they are meeting.

The restrictions will be in place until further notice.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January, and he asked Californians to cut their water usage by 20 percent. Following the declaration some water providers implemented mandatory restrictions, but the district serving Alameda did not.

In a report to the district’s board, staffers said customers have cut their water use by 10.7 percent since its drought response plan went into effect in February. And they said the district’s customers had more permanently cut water use prior to the current drought, helping the district achieve its goal of cutting water use by 20 percent by 2020 early.

Still, some have questioned whether customers in districts where restrictions aren’t mandated are taking the need to conserve seriously. One Alamedan reader wrote in this week to ask why sprinklers were running on Encinal High School’s football and baseball fields. And SFGate columnist Mark Morford recently chided a Harbor Bay Isle homeowner’s association for demanding some residents water their lawn more.

Alameda Unified School District spokeswoman Susan Davis said the district has made a number of fixes aimed at reducing water use over the last several months that include repairing leaks in its pools, installing more efficient sprinkler heads and a metering program to better limit and monitor water used for irrigation and conducting better maintenance on its irrigation lines.

“The district is trying to balance the historical desire for attractive school landscapes with the mandate to conserve water in this very severe drought season,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, some school landscapes will not be as lush as they have been in the past, because of the current water restrictions.”

The school district has sought to reduce water usage at its schools and facilities by 10 percent, but between the 2009 and 2013 school years its water use rose by 18.37 percent, a recent report showed.

Davis said field maintenance is a priority for the district and that the high school’s fields need watering to ensure student athletes’ safety.

“The fields need to have a healthy cover of grass to prevent injuries associated with thinning grass,” said Davis. “Some water use is also necessary to get goose manure – which can cause infections – off the fields.”

A city official said they plan to comply with the new rules. Liam Garland, administrative services manager with the city’s public works department, said city departments laid out strategies in February at the behest of City Manager John Russo - who ordered the reductions - to reduce watering of turf areas by 20 percent or more; the city’s parks department also stopped using water to clean tennis courts and other hardscape.

Garland said the city plans to consider additional water-saving measures this year, including installing low-flow toilets in city buildings, removing turf where feasible and looking into areas where recycled water can be used to water turf – as the city already does at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex.

As of Wednesday, the district’s reservoirs held 76 percent of the water they normally do, and the district had 55 percent of the water in storage it typically holds, according to .

Still, water district officials – who made their first-ever purchase of water from the Sacramento River this year – said their water supply is in fair condition.

“Thanks to ratepayers’ investment in additional water supplies, customers’ ongoing conservation and the additional water use cutbacks made this year, (the district’s) water supply continues in fair condition this summer despite the severe drought,” board president Andy Katz was quoted as saying in a press release. “Yet, we do agree with the state board that these restrictions will stretch our supplies in case next winter fails to bring enough snow and rain.”

District officials said that most of its customers can reduce their water use by heeding the new outdoor watering restrictions, fixing leaks and installing water efficient fixtures and landscaping. The district has posted water saving tips on its website.

Anyone who sees water being wasted can report it to the water district using this online form.


Here’s the list of restrictions the East Bay Municipal Utility District put in place this week.

• Limit watering of outdoor landscapes to two times per week maximum.
• Prevent excess runoff when watering their landscapes.
• Use only hoses with shutoff nozzles to wash vehicles.
• Use a broom or air blower, not water, to clean hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, except as needed for health and safety purposes.
• Turn off any fountain or decorative water feature unless the water is recirculated.

Related: Students showcase surprising way to save water

Water conservation push renewed

California drought: How you can save water


Al Wright's picture
Submitted by Al Wright on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

90% of all the water used in California is used by Big Agribusiness, so if we achieve our 20% cut in our water usage, it's (pardon the pun) just a drop in the bucket overall. What is Agriculture doing to limit their water use?

Submitted by GM (not verified) on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

I read that for home users, 60% of water goes to lawns, 30% to toilets, and 10% for other use. We can replace the lawns, have low-flow toilets & showers, run the dishwasher when full (and no prerinsing), and flush every other time for pee. We can use a timer for showers and turn off the water while soaping up. Don't hose down driveway, sidewalk, patio, etc. Like so many areas in life, water conservation is something we can and should do even when big business doesn't.

Submitted by C. (not verified) on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

The Community of Harbor Bay Isle needs to check its sprinklers on the median of Island Drive. The sprinkler heads need to be adjusted. The other night we saw water shooting into the street from more than one of them. There doesn't seem to be any decrease in watering at the other homeowner association's either - such as Islandia or Garden Isle etc... These massive lawns and grassy courtyards must surely be consuming a lot of water.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

What annoys me is that those of us who already do conserve (low water use landscaping, limiting shower time, using brooms instead of hoses) are expected to cut further back while someone who washes his car every week with the hose just needs to stop doing that and he's good. Consequently, the wasters will have a much cushier time of it than those who have already been doing their part. Oh, well.

Submitted by moi (not verified) on Sat, Aug 16, 2014

Luczai, well said. It fries me that I've been conserving for years and there's just about nothing I can cut back on... And I have to. Why can't some system be developed where the wasters need to cut back and people who have already been trying are cut some slack?