EBMUD approves 8 percent ‘drought surcharge’

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EBMUD offering pandemic relief for financially struggling customers
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East Bay Municipal Utility District customers will see an 8 percent “drought surcharge” on their bills starting July 1 that aims to “help finance additional water supplies and expenses related to the ongoing drought,” according to the district.

The district’s Board of Directors voted 6-1 to impose the surcharge on its 1.4 million customers.

“The drought surcharge will be applied to customers’ flow charges – or the volume of water used – beginning on July 1,” the District said. “For an average single-family home using 200 gallons of water per day, the 8 percent drought surcharge will amount to approximately 10 cents a day, $3.08 more per month ($6.16 per two-month billing cycle).”

The surcharge, expected to recover about $30.8 million to relieve an estimated $64.5 million needed to manage this year’s drought, will remain in place until the drought emergency declaration is lifted, the district said. The remainder of the drought expenses will be funded by reserves.

Last month after a second dry winter left District reservoirs at 71 percent full, the Board elevated EBMUD’s drought response from Stage 1 to Stage 2, mandating 10 percent conservation district-wide, tightening restrictions on outdoor water use and reinstating penalties on customers for “excessive use.” The previous year, the Board declared a Stage 1 drought emergency, called for voluntary 10 percent conservation and initiated the purchase of 33,000-acre feet in supplemental supplies from the Sacramento River following a dry winter that left District reservoirs 69 percent full. 

The Excessive Use Penalty Ordinance sets a daily household threshold of 66 cubic feet of water, or about 1,646 gallons. Households who exceed the threshold will receive one warning, and then will face fines of $2 for every 748 gallons of water above the threshold, according to EBMUD.

Current water restrictions limit outdoor watering to three times per week, prohibits washing down sidewalks or driveways and requires restaurants and cafes to only provide water upon request, among other provisions.

“We understand with all the challenges in the world today, drought can be an additional stress,” Board President Doug Linney said. “We are taking a methodical and proven approach to address this emergency so that we can assure our customers that we will have reliable supplies if the dry weather persists.”