Voices needed in drought

Historic statewide mandates, local relief efforts stress awareness

As California experiences its most arid four-year period in history, it is vital that Contra Costa and Alameda county residents are aware of a possible increase to their water bill and why.

On April 14, East Bay Municipal Utilities District Board unanimously voted to approve a districtwide election that will allow customers within its service area to either approve or decline a 25 percent surcharge for water.

EBMUD Public Affairs Representative Nelsy Rodriguez said notices and ballots will be sent out to its customers that must be filled out and returned before June 9.

Rodriguez said any ballot that is not returned will be considered as a “yes” vote.

She also said if the surcharge is passed, the funds collected will be used to pay for the operational fees of using the Freeport water treatment and pump station to divert needed water to the San Pablo Reservoir from the Sacramento River.

And this is completely within EBMUD’s legal right to do under Proposition 218, which was put into effect in 1997 and requires that counties, cities and special districts obtain ballot approval to finance projects.

So take advantage of this opportunity provided to you by your state legislators to become aware of changes being made to your water bill and the intent behind the increase.

As of now, 2015 has been the second driest year in state history, and only second to the 1977 drought. Assuming, however, that the rest of the year continues to see record low rain and snowfall, this year’s drought may take the record.

According to an EBMUD Water Supply Briefing Report issued to its water operations department on Tuesday, the rainfall level of the Mokelumne River Basin, the area that provides 90 percent of East Bay residents with water, is the driest on record over a four-year period.

As of April 1 its nearby snowpack, which feeds fresh water into the basin, is only at 3 inches compared to the usual 32 inches. And a macro survey of statewide snowpack is measured at only 1.5 inches compared with the average of 28 inches.

From 2014 to 2015 this equates to a drop from 25 percent of normal snowpack to 5 percent.

Much of the state has not been as fortunate as the Bay Area during this drought due to nearby water supplies, and reflects in recent decisions by legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown, who mandated a 25 percent statewide water use reduction in early April.

This decision marks the first water reduction mandate in state history, after consumer water saving efforts were cut in half from a measly 12 percent to an even lesser 6 percent since last year.

Not only should East Bay residents be aware of the pressure this drought is placing on the environment, but of the personal and political implications as well.

If you want to save money by avoiding the surcharge, pay attention to your incoming mail. Then make a decision, or someone else will for you.