News Feature | March 31, 2014

CA Drought: San Francisco Utility May Require Emergency Water Source

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The eastern part of the San Francisco Bay may need help from the Sacramento River to make up for water shortfalls this year. 

"With the reality that rainfall and the Sierra Nevada snowpack will be far short of normal this year, the East Bay’s largest water district is getting ready to tap an emergency water source that it took decades of legal battles and engineering work to secure," KQED reported.  

The East Bay Municipal Utility District plans to decide next month "whether to switch on a pumping plant on the Sacramento River to supplement supplies it gets from its big Mokelumne River reservoirs," the report said. The district serves 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The move would be unprecedented. "After paying 43 years for a new water supply it has never used, the East Bay's largest water district might finally tap the keg," according to the Contra Costa Times. 

Difficult weather in California makes the move feasible this year. The "water is available only in drought years -- which is exactly what California is dealing with at the moment," NBC Bay Area reported

Before considering the reserve, the district tried conservation. 

"So far, the district has asked customers for a voluntary, and relatively modest, 10 percent reduction in water use. Several other districts are calling for deeper cuts. The Santa Clara Valley Water District has asked consumers to reduce use by 20 percent. The Marin Municipal Water District has requested a 25 percent voluntary reduction," KQED said. 

The decision is note set in stone. 

“The district may decide that additional conservation would be enough,” EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook said to KQED. “It could say that we do need that water from the Sacramento River. It could be a combination.”

If the district moves ahead, it is unclear how much supply it would need.

"Just how much water EBMUD can get from the Sacramento will depend on how much state and federal officials decide can be diverted from the river, which is experiencing very low flows because of the drought," the report said. 

Image credit: "Winter in the East Bay," © 2011 Gerry Brush, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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