The Freeport water intake facility on the Sacramento River (East Bay Municipal Utility District)
The Freeport water intake facility on the Sacramento River. (East Bay Municipal Utility District)

With the reality that rainfall and the Sierra Nevada snowpack will be far short of normal this year, the East Bay’s largest water district is getting ready to tap an emergency water source that it took decades of legal battles and engineering work to secure.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, will decide next month whether to switch on a pumping plant on the Sacramento River to supplement supplies it gets from its big Mokelumne River reservoirs.

It would mark the first time EBMUD has used a supply of water it first arranged to purchase from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1970. The agreement would have allowed the district to pump as much as 150,000 acre-feet of emergency water from the American River east of Sacramento. After decades of environmental litigation, the district became partners with the Sacramento County Water Agency in a $900 million project that looks much different from the original plan.

The two agencies jointly built a pumping plant on the Sacramento River in Freeport, just south of the capital city. The plant, opened in 2011, allows EBMUD to ship water from the Sacramento through a series of canals to its Mokelumne Aqueduct, which serves the East Bay. Under its contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, EBMUD can draw on the Sacramento River supply only during dry years.

“EBMUD wouldn’t access that water at all unless it was a situation like this, which is a drought year,” EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook says. The district will decide whether to request the emergency water next month, she says, after the spring and summer runoff forecast is clearer.

EBMUD’s reservoirs are at 63 percent of capacity, even after a series of February storms. Camanche Reservoir, the district’s largest storage facility, is less than half full.

So far, the district has asked customers for a voluntary, and relatively modest, 10 percent reduction in water use. Several other districts are calling for deeper cuts. The Santa Clara Valley Water District has asked consumers to reduce use by 20 percent. The Marin Municipal Water District has requested a 25 percent voluntary reduction.

“The district may decide that additional conservation would be enough,” Pook says. “It could say that we do need that water from the Sacramento River. It could be a combination.”

Just how much water EBMUD can get from the Sacramento will depend on how much state and federal officials decide can be diverted from the river, which is experiencing very low flows because of the drought.

  • JoeCommentor

    The ‘reality’ alluded to in the first sentence IS there are too many customers for the resource and that politicians did NOTHING to stop this, in fact, have exacerbated it. Threatening/forcing a X% reduction in water use is NOT a ‘solution’. It also goes to show how demented/dishonest/felonius the environmental impact review process is when ‘cumulative impacts’ are analyzed to be nil/’unavoidable’ and then approved and we get to this point. ALL being overseen by a democrat majority in power.

  • azaredaniel

    We need sustainable energy policies, Ban Fracking and implement a California Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff so our kids and grandchildren have a fighting chance to survive.

    Globally we are emitting 40-44 Billion tons of Green House Gases annually, here in California we emit 446 million tons of Carbon Dioxide a year, 1,222,000 Toxic Tons a Day.

    “Tell the California Public Utility Commission: No new dirty gas plants!
    Every year, more than 70,000 California kids are rushed to the hospital because they can’t breathe, due to air pollution in Calfiornia.

    Unfortunately the Governor and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) are considering huge new gas-fired power plants to replace the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Dirty gas plants will make our air worse and just aren’t needed.

    We can’t sit by and let our air get dirtier and our kids even sicker, when we’ve got cheaper, cleaner, safer options like Renewable Energy.” Sierra Club.

    California, there is enough Residential Solar to power 2.25 San Onofres, couple that with a Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff and we can solve some of these environmental and electrical generating problems.

    The Southwest is in the midst of a record drought, some 14 years in the making, which means the water supply for many Western states – California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada – is drying up. Last month the Bureau of Reclamation announced they’re cutting the flow of water into Lake Mead, which has already lost 100 feet of water since the drought began.

    What happens if the Southwest drought does not end soon ?

    Will we keep using 3 to 6 million gallons of Clean Water per Fracked well, to extract natural gas ?

    This petition will ask the California Regulators and Law makers to allocate Renewable Portfolio Standards to Ca. Home Owners for a Residential Feed in Tariff, the RPS is the allocation method that is used to set aside a certain percentage of electrical generation for Renewable Energy in the the State.

    The State of California has mandated that 33% of its Energy come from Renewable Energy by 2020.

    The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

    This is how we generate our electricity in 2011, natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of electrical power generated in-state. Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, Renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%.

    There is 9% missing from San Onofre and with the current South Western drought, how long before the 18.3% hydro will be effected ?

    Another generator of power that jumps out is natural gas, 45.3%, that is a lot of Fracked Wells poisoning our ground water, 3 to 6 million gallons of water are used per well.

    If Fracking is safe why did Vice Pres Cheney lobby and win Executive, Congressional, and Judicial exemptions from:

    Clean Water Act.

    Safe Drinking Water.

    Act Clean Air Act.

    Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

    Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act.

    National Environmental Policy Act.

    “Americans should not have to accept unsafe drinking water just because natural gas is cheaper than Coal. the Industry has used its political power to escape accountability, leaving the American people unprotected, and no Industry can claim to be part of the solution if it supports exemptions from the basic Laws designed to ensure that we have Clean Water and Clean Air” Natural Resources Defense Council.

    We have to change how we generate our electricity, with are current drought conditions and using our pure clean water for Fracking, there has to be a better way to generate electricity, and there is, a proven stimulating policy.

    The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether Homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020.
    FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:


    Photovoltaics (PV)

    Solar thermal




    Fuel cells

    Tidal and wave power.

    There is currently 3 utilities using a Commercial Feed in Tariff in California Counties, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and Sacramento, are paying their businesses 17 cents per kilowatt hour for the Renewable Energy they generate. We can get our Law makers and Regulators to implement a Residential Feed in Tariff, to help us weather Global Warming, insulate our communities from grid failures, generate a fair revenue stream for the Homeowners and protect our Water.

    The 17 cents per kilowatt hour allows the Commercial Business owner and the Utility to make a profit.

    Commercial Ca. rates are 17 – 24 cents per kilowatt hour.

    Implementing a Residential Feed in Tariff at 13 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 2,300 MW, and then allow no more than 3-5 cents reduction in kilowatt per hour, for the first tier Residential rate in you area and for the remaining capacity of Residential Solar, there is a built in Fee for the Utility for using the Grid. A game changer for the Hard Working, Voting, Tax Paying, Home Owner and a Fair Profit for The Utility, a win for our Children, Utilities, and Our Planet.

    We also need to change a current law, California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems.

    Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

    Roof top Solar is the new mantra for Solar Leasing Companies with Net-Metering which allows them to replace One Utility with Another, we need to change this policy with a Residential Feed in Tariff that will level the playing field and allow all of us to participate in the State mandated 33% Renewable Energy by 2020.

    Do not exchange One Utility for Another (Solar Leasing Companies) “Solar is absolutely great as long as you stay away from leases and PPAs. Prices for solar have dropped so dramatically in the past year, that leasing a solar system makes absolutely no sense in today’s market.

    The typical household system is rated at about 4.75 kW. After subtracting the 30% federal tax credit, the cost would be $9,642 to own this system. The typical cost to lease that same 4.75 kW system would be $35,205 once you totaled up the 20 years worth of lease payments and the 30% federal tax credit that you’ll have to forfeit when you lease a system. $9,642 to own or $35,205 to lease. Which would you rather choose?

    If you need $0 down financing then there are much better options than a lease or PPA. FHA is offering through participating lenders, a $0 down solar loan with tax deductible interest and only a 650 credit score to qualify. Property Assessed Clean Energy loans are available throughout the state that require no FICO score checks, with tax deductible interest that allow you to make your payments through your property tax bill with no payment due until November 2014. Both of these programs allow you to keep the 30% federal tax credit as well as any applicable cash rebate. With a lease or PPA you’ll have to forfeit the 30% tax credit and any cash rebate, and lease or PPA payments are not tax deductible.

    Solar leases and PPA served their purpose two years ago when no other viable form of financing was available, but today solar leases and PPAs are two of the most expensive ways to keep a solar system on your roof.” Ray Boggs.

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