Water conservation push renewed

Water conservation push renewed

Dave Boitano

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

Thoughts of a drought may have been put on hold during this weekend's rainstorms. But now that the clouds have cleared, authorities are again urging Californians to conserve water.

The good news is that the three-day “Pineapple Express” storm dumped more than six inches of rain on Northern California - which is better news for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which supplies fresh water to Alameda and other East Bay communities. The weekend storms raised rainfall totals from 24 percent to 47 percent of normal for the season, district spokeswoman Andrea Pook said.

Unfortunately, it will take many more storms to bring the water supply to normal levels this year, and climate experts have said that is unlikely.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. This is one of the few times when the sun is out and I am not happy,” Pook joked.

The utility’s board of directors today will consider asking consumers to voluntarily cut their water use by 10 percent - less than the 20 percent requested by Governor Jerry Brown. Additional water-saving efforts could be made if the call for voluntary cutbacks and the weather don't put the district on track to meet its minimum storage requirement of 500,000 acre-feet of water, a staff report for today's meeting shows. It says the district plans to make requests for supplemental water from the state and another water agency it has a contract with.

Camanche Reservoir, one of the district’s main water storage facilities, is at 213,630 acre feet or 51 percent of its capacity. Pardee Reservoir now contains 158,630 or 80 percent of capacity. All told, the state's reservoirs were at about 58 percent of their average capacity, according to the state Department of Water Resources. An acre foot represents the amount of water needed to flood an acre of land to depth of one foot.

The utility district does not keep records, by city but the average single family household of 2.8 people uses about 250 gallons of water per day. Consumers should try to use only 50 gallons per person each day, Pook said - which is 140 gallons for the average single family household.

The district has a series of water conservation tips available on its website, and the state has launched its own website with water-saving tips.

But some don't think a voluntary conservation plan is enough. In a letter to the district's board, Alameda's Natalie Dolgireff said the district should ration its water, ban watering lawns and residential swimming pools and raise prices.

"The water that we save today is the water we need to drink tomorrow," Dolgireff wrote.

But rising water rates could provide an incentive to cut back. Rates rose by 9.75 percent in July 2013 and are slated to go up another 9.5 percent this coming July, the district's website says. All told, that's an increase of about $8 per month as of July 1.

Last week, Alameda's City Council heard details on city departments' plans to save water, now and in the future. Proposed measures including reducing water to passive and field areas in the city’s parks by 20 percent, cutting water use at Alameda Point by 25 percent, and asking users like the Bladium, the USS Hornet, Rock Wall Wine Company and the Alameda Point Collaborative to use 20 percent less water than they're using now.

Even the fire department is being asked to pitch in. Fire trucks are to be washed only twice a month instead of every Sunday, and staff vehicles will be washed only at a maintenance center that uses reclaimed water. Firefighting drills will be run “dry” instead of using water during practice unless absolutely necessary, according to the plans offered to the council.

Despite puddles of water in the parking lot of the Chuck Corica Golf Complex on Monday, the golf complex's managers said efforts are underway to control water use there. Watering is continuing on the putting greens and fairways but has been cut from the unused areas in between the fairways, said John Vest of Greenway Golf, which manages the golf complex for the city.

Unlike some other golf courses, Chuck Corica uses water reclaimed from a wastewater treatment plant in San Leandro, which could help the complex during the drought.

“Other courses that are on potable water, this could be a rough year for them,” Vest said.

Vest said water use will be reduced significantly when Greenway shuts down nine holes on the South Course for remodeling. The project is expected to take around two years.

Some Alameda residents said they're trying to do their part to conserve, while others questioned whether more can be done.

“I bought a Home Depot bucket and keep it in my bathroom to collect the water while the shower is warming up,” resident Jessica Chan wrote on The Alamedan’s Facebook page on Monday. “Then I use that water to wash the car, water the plants, and for cleaning. I also keep an old pitcher at the kitchen sink to collect the water while it warms up and use that for the indoor plants.”

Resident Jaclyn Marks wondered why the city is still watering the median strip at Bay Farm Island.

“It’s such a waste and half the time the sprinklers are watering the street,” she wrote.