Dry conditions combined with low water storage this year prompted the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors to unanimously declare a drought emergency on Wednesday night, including mandatory 15% water use reduction for all Zone 7 retailers.
“This is an important step in ensuring long-term water reliability for the Tri-Valley area," said Board President Angela Ramirez Holmes in a statement. "We need to take this action now to make sure our community has enough water in the immediate future."
For the second year in a row, continued dry conditions and low storage have limited the agency's opportunities to purchase water. After requesting a 10% voluntary conservation from 2020 water demands in March, the agency increased their request to 15% in July, to align with Governor Gavin Newsom's statewide initiative.
After falling well short of their target goal -- water savings in July were about 7% compared to July 2020 -- Zone 7 said it "has determined more significant action is necessary in order to ensure water reliability in 2022." According to general manager Valerie Pryor, more than 85% of the agency's water demand comes from municipal and industrial use, and the rest is agricultural use.
"Mandatory conservation is resulting from worsening drought conditions as well as voluntary conservation being below requested amounts," General Manager Valerie Pryor told the Weekly. "My general message is that this is a serious drought and there is a significant potential for the situation to be worse next year. The water we save this year will help us next year."
A Stage 2 Shortage Emergency and local drought emergency resolution were also approved at the Sept. 1 special board meeting. The local declaration will expedite construction projects to improve water supply reliability like the Valley Pump Station, which is slated to move its target completion date of summer 2023 up a year with board approval at their Sept. 15 meeting.
According to officials, conservation efforts made this year "are intended to help lessen the potential reductions in 2022."
"We’re doing what we can now to try to prevent more drastic steps in 2022," Ramirez Holmes said.
Changes are not being recommended to drought rates or the current rate structure, but all Zone 7 retailers -- including the California Water Service Company, Dublin San Ramon Services District, and the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton -- will be responsible for deciding how to enforce the mandatory conservation requirement and what that will look like for customers.
In response to Zone 7's direction to retailers, DSRSD spokeswoman Lea Blevins told the Weekly that a report on water supply conditions will be delivered to the DSRSD Board of Directors at their meeting on Tuesday, "and provide direction on declaration of a water shortage emergency."
"DSRSD staff will also recommend amending the district code to be consistent with the recently adopted Water Shortage Contingency Plan," Blevins said.
According to Blevins, staff will also recommend the first reading of an ordinance to amend the district code to align the water shortage stages with those required by the state Department of Water Resources, as well as provide water use restrictions and district enforcement actions for each water shortage stage.
Later this month, DSRSD plans to recommend adopting the ordinance as well as a separate ordinance declaring a Stage 2 Water Shortage Emergency. That resolution would require reducing water use by 15% compared to last year, Blevins said, adding, "The district will continue to spread the word about the need for water conservation and will begin to review customer usage and notify customers of overuse."
While there are many ways that users can cut back their water usage, Pryor said, "I would also like to remind readers that one of the most effective ways to save water is by reducing outdoor irrigation."