Good to the Last Drop: More details on Alameda’s water

The City on Water

In a continuing effort to discuss water supply and demand in the City of Alameda, Liz Acord, management analyst with the Public Works Department answered more questions regarding water use here.  

According to actual figures of water use between March and December 2014, the city reduced its overall usage by 29 percent compared to the same period in 2013. This amounts to an overall savings of 120,564,277 gallons between 2013 and 2014.

In reference to questions about future infrastructure for recycled water, Acord pointed to the city’s Ordinance 2876 and AMC section 30-57 which require any new development applications to incorporate recycled water infrastructure where applicable. 
“Bayport and Alameda Landing both have irrigation systems in place to use recycled water,” stated Acord. “Any new development at Alameda Point will also be designed to use recycled water.”

The Sun also asked the tough development question: how do we provide water for new residents of Alameda as housing and population increase? (See letter to the editor “New Residents Will Need Water, Too” on this week’s page 8). The city relies on the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) which supplies the city of Alameda with its water for this consideration.

“Per EBMUD, new development is accounted for because it is in the existing service territory,” stated Acord. “EBMUD planning addresses all needs in the service territory, including future needs. It would be a different matter if Alameda was proposing to extend the service territory for new development.”

That being said, new developments will need to prove their commitment to conservation. As Acord understands it, EBMUD will not turn on new meters unless the appropriate household and landscape efficiency requirements have been met — without doing so, new development would not be connected.

When it comes to residents and businesses conserving here in town, the city wants them to comply with EBMUD’s emergency drought restrictions and report water waste to www.ebmud.com/ 
report-water-waste. Residents can learn water saving tips at California’s Save Our Water website, http://saveourwater.com. 

Changes in taste and smell of tap water here to stay

Last week, EBMUD announced changes to its water supplies which will affect the taste and smell of tap water until the drought ends.

According to the press release, in order to preserve as much cold water deep in Pardee reservoir as possible, EBMUD must switch to a higher intake valve. The cold water must be stored all summer and released downstream in the fall, per state and federal requirements, to improve river conditions for returning salmon. The valve change was scheduled to take place last Sunday, May 10. 

“Our water this year may taste and smell different than what we are used to. It’s not ideal. But the alternatives are much worse,” said EBMUD General Manager Alexander R. Coate. “We will put the Mokelumne River ecosystem at risk later this year if we don’t take water from a higher valve at the Pardee Dam.”

Water nearer the surface of a reservoir is warmer, more sunlit and often contains more algae than water deeper in the reservoir. Water from higher in the reservoir has started flowing to two-thirds of East Bay taps this week.
To improve the taste and smell of tap water, EBMUD recommends customers chill the water or run it through a carbon filter before drinking. All tap water EBMUD delivers to customers meets or exceeds all state and federal public health standards. The most recent annual water quality report can be viewed at www.ebmud.com/wqr.

Planned capital improvements are in progress at some treatment plants. “But we can’t build more treatment fast enough to make a difference to the taste and smell customers will experience this year,” said Coate.
Residential customers with questions or concerns should contact EBMUD. Industrial and commercial customers should contact EBMUD for additional information relevant to their industrial processes. Immuno-compromised persons should consult their health care provider for advice about drinking water.

EBMUD buying supply

Last month EBMUD began filling San Pablo and Upper San Leandro reservoirs with a two-month supply of Sacramento River water purchased through a federal contract. The district is negotiating with multiple water sellers for an additional two-month supply of water also to be drawn from the Sacramento River. That water will be pumped into local reservoirs for several months. About one-third of EBMUD’s customers have already begun receiving water from this drought supply.

“This water comes at a significantly higher cost for EBMUD than our normal water supplies, but purchasing this water is necessary to protect our customers and our local economy,” said Coate. “We would have to take drastic measures like banning outdoor water use across the entire service area all summer if we don’t draw water from the Sacramento River this year. Those alternatives are even tougher to swallow.”

Contact Eric J. Kos at ekos@alamedasun.com.