SAN RAMON -- While other Tri-Valley cities are facing mandatory reductions, penalties or fines to deal with the drought, the city of San Ramon is doing fairly well, city officials say.
"We're not in bad shape right now," the city's operations division manager Jeff Gault told the City Council at its July 22 meeting. "We're paying a lot for water but trying to conserve where we can."
The city spent about $500,000 more for water last year than the year before due to the lack of rainfall and cost increases, he said, during an update on how the drought was affecting the city.
The two water suppliers who serve the city are dealing with quite different scenarios. The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves all of the city except for the Dougherty Valley, says it has enough water to get by and doesn't need to impose mandatory water-use restrictions or fines, preferring to rely on voluntary reductions of 10 percent. The water utility raised water rates by 9.5 percent this month, the second increase in the past year.
Meanwhile, in Dougherty Valley, the city, residents and businesses are under mandatory drought cutbacks imposed by its water supplier, Dublin San Ramon Services District. Water users can incur steep penalties if they don't curb their water use. The district's goal is to achieve an overall 25 percent reduction in potable water use by its customers. Outdoor potable water use must be cut by 50 percent and is limited to two days a week through September.
The city, for its part, has been meeting its reduction goals though a number of measures, including prioritizing areas for watering, washing tennis courts less often, and reducing hours of operation for Central Park's splash fountain by three hours a day, so it's only flowing from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The city has also closed the Dougherty Valley Aquatic Center on Sundays during the summer.
Gault said the city wants to work with East Bay and Dublin districts to convert Central Park, Piccadilly Park and Compass Point Park to recycled water, and it is considering doing water audits with EBMUD to identify irrigation equipment inefficiencies.
Because of the restrictions on outside watering, roadway medians and strips planted with grass are starting to die, Gault said. The city has replaced a 1,300-foot water-hungry grass strip on Lilac Ridge Road with drought-tolerant shrubs to see if there is a cost savings. Councilmember Phil O'Loane wondered if it would make sense for the city to stop watering the strips altogether.
Maybe "just mulch the whole thing until this drought situation turns around and they run recycled water down the street," he said.
But councilmembers Scott Perkins and Dave Hudson worried that the trees might also die. Anne Cavazos, the president of Sustainable San Ramon and the only resident to speak at the meeting, suggested that the trees might be hand-watered with a truck a couple times a week instead.
She also urged the city to consult an expert to come up with "a long-term plan" to conserve its water resources, since water is likely to become even more scarce over time.
"This is only going to be a continuing problem in the future," she said. "And I'm concerned what will happen with future generations for my son -- and now, for myself."
Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/joycetsainews.