Customer conservation combined with a surge in water supplies has prompted East Bay Municipal Utility District directors to vote unanimously to end a drought surcharge that has cost the average household about $8 a month for the past year.
Directors approved the 25% drought surcharge last June, two months after they declared a stage four critical drought and imposed a mandatory 20% reduction in water use for the district's 1.4 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, including most of the San Ramon Valley.
But directors said at their meeting on Tuesday that they want to end the drought surcharge effective July 1 because customers have cut their water use by 24%, which is better than expected, and reservoir storage levels are now at 93% of average because of the relatively wet winter.
Board president Frank Mellon said in a statement, "We asked our customers to cut back 20%. This April, customers saved 26% compared to 2013. Our community stepped up and exceeded those goals."
Mellon said, "This year, water demands are as low as in 1978. This, coupled with the hard efforts of our staff, ensured we managed well through this difficult drought emergency. We want to thank both our customers and our staff."
The board also voted to end the mandatory 20% reduction in water use but it hopes that people continue the water-saving habits they developed during the drought.
EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook said Wednesday, "We trust our customers to continue to save."
EBMUD officials said the rain and snow this winter was beneficial, bringing precipitation levels to 107% of average.
They said that by the end of September, runoff is projected to fill reservoirs to above 605,000-acre feet, which is 250,000 acre-feet more than the level last September.
Although the drought surcharge of about $8.08 a month for the average customer who uses up to 246 gallons a day will end on July 1, customers' savings will be offset somewhat by a 7% rate increase that was approved by the water district's board last year and will take effect at the same time.
EBMUD officials say the rate hike will cover increased operational and infrastructure costs associated with providing reliable, high quality water.
The rate hike is expected to cost the average customer $3.66 a month, so the net savings will be about $4.42 a month.
Although the current water supply conditions are encouraging, EBMUD officials said they remain committed to efficient water use and are merely moving from emergency drought response to continued water loss management and infrastructure renewal.
They said they will continue to work with customers to maintain wise water use to lock in current water savings for the future.
Mellon said, "As a result of this drought, we know our customers will maintain these new conservation habits. And we will continue to focus on upgrading and strengthening our infrastructure so we can continue to serve the East Bay for another 100 years."