Customers of Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD)responded effectively to the drought by using 24% less potable water in 2014 than in 2013, a reduction of 882.6 million gallons.
"We asked our customers to cut outdoor watering in half last summer, and they did. Their willingness to turn off their sprinklers and conserve water indoors ensured that we had enough water to maintain public health and safety. We are immensely proud of our community's response to the drought. It is among the best in the state," said DSRSD board president Ed Duarte.
The response surpassed Governor Jerry Brown's statewide goal to cut water use by 20% and almost met the 25% goal DSRSD set five months into the year.
The results reported by DSRSD do not affect Pleasanton residents as Pleasanton receives its water supply from its own municipal system.
Pleasanton residents also did an outstanding job conserving water for 2014, reducing water use by 27.8%, exceeding the city's mandated 25% requirement, said Daniel Smith, the city's Director of Operations Services. That resulted in saving 1,648,000,000 gallons total.
Late this year, DSRSD also will provide wastewater treatment to Pleasanton and for outdoor irrigation purposes.
According to DSRSD officials, on a per-person basis, water use in its system dropped by 28.1% -- from 135 gallons per person per day (GPCD) in 2013 to 97 GPCD in 2014.
"We thank our customers for all they did. Unfortunately the drought is not over," said Dan Gallagher, who leads the district's drought response efforts. "Despite good rainfall in December, the state's reservoirs are still very low and the mountains have received very little snow, so we have to keep on conserving water. Everyone's sprinklers should be turned off until the end of March."
Outreach, mandatory limitations drove response
DSRSD's public outreach on the drought began in February.
The board of directors declared a Community Drought Emergency and asked customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 20%, as well as requiring construction sites to use recycled water for soil compaction, dust control and grading.
In April, Zone 7 Water Agency cut wholesale water allocations to the Tri-Valley's four water retailers by 25% after confirming it would receive almost no water from the State Water Project (about 80% of the Tri-Valley's supply).
The water district raised the reduction goal to 25% on May 5. In addition, it adopted mandatory water-use restrictions and enforcement measures as well as new conservation incentives and rebates. Households were limited to no more than 4,480 gallons of water per week, and customers were required to comply with limitations or bans on certain types of water use. Stage 3 water rates took effect June 1.
DSRSD led a five-month, regional advertising campaign on local radio, television and newspaper -- which was jointly developed and funded by the five Tri-Valley water agencies to ensure consistent messages on water-use reduction goals.
Another effective outreach tool was the online customer portal launched in May. "AquaHawk" allows customers to see how much water they were using, rather than wait 60 days for the bill to arrive. Customers could quickly spot leaks and irrigation malfunctions and set up alerts tied to the mandatory restrictions. According to DSRSD, 28.5% of the district's water customers registered for AquaHawk -- the fastest adoption rate ever experienced by the software vendor.
Recycled water plays role in district's water savings
DSRSD distributed 819 million gallons of recycled water in 2014.
This represented 22.9% of the district's water sales, up from 19% in 2013, according to DSRSD officials.
The district spent decades of investment in recycled water infrastructure -- which included extending pipelines into central Dublin's established neighborhoods in 2013 -- making it practical to convert 34 large irrigation accounts to recycled water in 2014.
Officials said these projects will save 73 million gallons of drinking water annually, enough to serve 448 households for a year.
In addition, DSRSD obtained regulatory approval for a residential recycled water fill station that gave away 2.3 million gallons of free recycled water to nearly 500 active participants. The district also expanded its commercial fill station at the water recycling plant to accommodate up to 50 tanker trucks a day hauling recycled water to construction sites and the Callippe Preserve Golf Course.
"The District's investment in recycled water has paid huge dividends to the community during the 2014 drought: many parks and schools stayed green and construction projects continued, protecting jobs," Gallagher said. "If you combine the 819 million gallons of potable water saved through water recycling with the 882 million gallons saved through conservation, in all DSRSD customers saved 1.7 billion gallons of water in 2014."
DSRSD has also partnered with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and the City of Pleasanton to produce recycled water from wastewater.
In 1995, DSRSD and EBMUD formed the San Ramon Valley Recycled Water Program to provide recycled water to irrigate parks, schools, golf courses and other large landscapes.
Over the next ten years, the partnership built the Jeffrey G. Hansen Water Recycling Plant (named after a former DSRSD director who led efforts to develop recycled water locally) -- as well as a distribution network of pipelines, pumping stations and storage reservoirs.
In 2014, the program produced 1.3 billion gallons of recycled water used by DSRSD, EBMUD and Pleasanton water customers.
"Today we have recycled water in the Tri-Valley because 25 years ago we started planning and investing in the necessary infrastructure. Recycled water has already reduced the Tri-Valley's dependence on imported water, and treated wastewater is now a useful resource instead of a product thrown away in the ocean," Gallagher says.