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What the State-Wide Drought Means for El Cerrito

What can one city do when the state declares an emergency drought?

El Cerrito rain gardens on San Pablo Ave.
El Cerrito rain gardens on San Pablo Ave.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in California a couple of weeks ago, and since then, residents from across the state want know what that means for them and their cities.

El Cerrito's Operations and Environmental Services Division Manager, Garth Schultz, said because this is a regional issue, it's too early to tell what El Cerrito's city-wide response will be and if it calls for specific ordinances to be drafted.

"We don't know what's best for El Cerrito yet," he said in a phone call. He, along with other regional city representatives, will be meeting with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) officials in early February to identify key opportunities and strategies for water conservation. 

"For us, and really the whole state, the reality of a serious drought takes some time to find an effective approach," he said.

Enforcements around water consumption could be made if residents ask for it, Schultz said, but ultimately, water restriction decisions come from EBMUD.

In the meantime, Schultz said the city plans to educate residents about water conservation methods, while maintaing city-wide greening projects that already address water consumption.

For example, the rain gardens along San Pablo Ave and the Ohlone Greenway absorb rainwater runoff from places like roofs, walkways and parking lots.  These plants help filter and clean the water before it goes into the sewage system and out into the Bay. But they do more than just clean polluted water. They also help prevent erosion, and in critical dry times, preserve the limited groundwater.  

Other city-wide "green" projects include adding more drought resistant native plants in front of public buildings like the Recycling Center or City Hall, and in parks.

"We have our own landscaping and water bills to pay," Schultz said, "If there's going to be mandated water conservation, we want to make sure we're doing the same."

These are some long-term solutions neighbors can implement in their own yards, Schultz said. But on a more urgent basis, residents should immediately notify the Recycling and Environmental Resource Center at 510-215-4369 if they notice leaky city hoses or pipes.

The EBMUD also provides creative tips for conserving water at home. You can read about them here.

And of course dry weather means a higher risk for wildfires. The last month alone has prompted regular Red Flag alerts across the East Bay hills.

Are you doing anything differently with the drought emergency declared? Take our poll, and find out how your neighbors answered.


Robin Fraatz January 28, 2014 at 10:13 PM
Ever since we had the last drought, my husband and I have followed the water-saving procedures. I hope we will not be forced to live with less water than we have now, because we're already using the MINIMUM amount. Robin Fraatz-Camp

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