Pleasanton temporarily suspends drought billing penalties

December rainfall raised reservoir levels, but more is needed

In a 4-0 vote Tuesday, the Pleasanton City Council suspended the billing penalty component of the city's emergency drought mandate for a period of 90 days.

The 90-day suspension will allow time to consider the condition of the reservoir levels and snowpack in the State Water Project.

Daniel Smith, Operation Services Director and Pleasanton's water czar, told council members that "we're starting to see some favorable changes, especially in Lake Oroville, where we get much of our water."

The rains in December raised the reservoir's level, and the Sierra snowpack is now at 50% of normal, a marked increase from the 20% level at this time last year.

Also, the state has increased its projected allocation for Pleasanton in the coming months to 15% of normal, up from zero to 10% a year ago.

"So we are in a better position than we were last year and my recommendation is to suspend the penalties for now," Smith said.

"But I would still urged the public to conserve," he added. "At this time, the projections are all conjecture based on participation we hope to have as we go forward," he added.

"We are in a wait-and-see mode right now regarding the final amount of rainfall and snowpack that we get for the season," Smith said. "It's important for our water users to understand that emergency drought measures could go back into effect prior to April if we don't have enough measurable rain and snow by then."

The water billing penalty implemented last May was based on a mandatory 25% reduction in water use over what those same customers used in the same billing period in 2013. If mandated reduction is started again, 2015 billings will also require a 25% cutback based on 2013 billings.

Since May, water users in the city have collectively reduced consumption of potable water by 27.8%.

"We saved 1.6 billion gallons of water in 2014," Smith said. "Meters serving the city's needs showed a reduction of 45.2%, almost double what we asked for."

The topic will come before the City Council for review again at its April 21.

Until then, Smith pointed out that state water restrictions remain in effect until at least April 15. Those measures include a 20% voluntary water reduction over the 2013 consumption, irrigation only between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., no washing down of driveways or hard surfaces, and the use of covers on swimming pools.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


7 people like this
Posted by Timothy T
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Half of the normal snowpack and 20% of normal water allocation still means we're in a drought, you morons.

Significant conservation efforts should still be in effect and penalties shouldn't be removed just so people can water their lawns.

2 people like this
Posted by Jill
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Jan 21, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Agree with Timothy at

4 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 21, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Still have the wrong people on the city council, what a bunch of knuckleheads!!! They must be topping off their pools and upgrading their landscaping, well if nothing else they will score points with ruby hill peeps

1 person likes this
Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 22, 2015 at 9:01 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

Damn, this is stupid. Knuckleheads is what we've got.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2015 at 9:48 am

Well, according to the article, the snow pack is up and the state allocation of water is up. I'm sure the water district has been getting complaints from folks who have been penalized and want to get out of the "enforcement" business.
Relaxing the penalty will make their phone stop ringing but we are still in a drought with no rain this month and none in sight.
I think they ought to reduce the penalty by the percentage the snow pack and state allocation is up, and keep it there until something changes one way or the other.
Just my two cents

4 people like this
Posted by Pepper the Senior
a resident of Old Towne
on Jan 22, 2015 at 9:57 am

We were able to reduce water usage in the spring and summer by over 50%. But when we got our bill for the next period, we had used such a small amount of water the previous year that all we were able to do is was match it. We were fined $250 penalty. We used less than 25% for the year. Shouldn't that be enough?

Like this comment
Posted by TAMom
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:19 am

I liken this act to approving additional spending when you don't know the balance of your checking/saving accounts. Foolish at best, and likely to encourage additional water consumption.

Like this comment
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:46 am

@"Pepper the Senior": "We were able to reduce water usage in the spring and summer by over 50%. But when we got our bill for the next period, we had used such a small amount of water the previous year that all we were able to do is was match it. We were fined $250 penalty. We used less than 25% for the year. Shouldn't that be enough?"

For you to have gotten a $250 penalty as a 1st-time offender you would have had to have used at least 50 units of water over a 2-month period, or an average of 25 units of water per month. Unless you have a large family, that's quite a bit of water to use during the fall or winter when the sprinklers aren't running.

Also, you're exempt from water use penalties if you use less than 40 units of water over any given 2-month period. That works out to an average of 20 units of water per month. If you could have reduced your average water use by just 5 less units per month from 25 units to 20 units, you would have been exempt and avoided penalties.

2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:48 am

To Pepper the Senior - Wow, sounds like very unfair treatment in your case. I hope you called the water dept and had this successfully appealed. No good deed goes unpunished, right?

Like this comment
Posted by Eric
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:58 am

Pepper, what was your usage initially? Saying you reduced by 50% doesn't provide enough information.
Our family of 3 went from 26 units to 11. Let the lawn go, flush when there are solids, hot water re-circulator so we don't send 2-4 gallons down the drain everytime we want hot at the tap or shower, use the dishwasher more instead of hand washing and wait for a full load, we shower to get clean no longer to day dream, sing or relax and we fine tuned the drip irrigation. These things have just become a habit and really haven't been a bother for us and we are still looking for more ways to save a little here and there.
No one can predict when or if the next rain storm is going to come. The only thing we can do that we do have control of is reduce our usage and hold on to the dwindling supply that we currently have. No one is going to like it if the taps run dry. I would bet that those that haven't changed their habits or have pushed to have penalties suspended are going to be screaming, crying, stomping about and wanting heads to roll should that happen.
For the Council to suspend the penalties I feel is the incorrect move. The rains we had in December were far from enough to bring us out of our current drought conditions. When or if the resevoirs are full and the snowpack is normal would be a reasonable time to suspend penalties for over usage. Until then our last rains were in December, our resevoirs are all well below historical averages and way below capacity, we are at the end of January and there is ZERO rainfall on the horizon. That is the reality of it.

3 people like this
Posted by Jody
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:23 pm

That is commendable Eric, but after you have done all of this saving, how would you like to be asked for another mandatory 25% savings? Several years ago we replaced the landscape, changed out the toilets, put in the on demand hot water heaters, swapped out all of the fixtures to low flow amongst other things, so we were already saving. Then when the mandatory 25% was added the following year, we were dead in the water. Even with taking military showers, limiting flushes, and recycling shower water, we have been unable to meet the reduction requirements. I would rather support a 'pay for what you use' approach as that is just right. And I approached Daniel and to no avail. Rules is Rules.

Does everyone understand that we are the only country with these dramatic fines? And all because our representatives didn't plan for the drought (like other water districts) so we pay for their negligence.

This penalty process is just wrong. Go back to a consumption based billing and raise the rates if needed during a drought.

Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Why doesn't the City provide incentives to reduce water consumption instead of this penalty nonsense? Las Vegas offers $1.75/sq ft for law that is removed, a much more attractive way to incentivize people than a penalty. We were in the process of removing lawn when we learned that Zone 7 was offering rebates. We applied and were told we didn't qualify because we had to get prior approval before being a good citizen.

1 person likes this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm

I must be one of the few individuals that actually monitors water usage on a daily basis. Two things I have found. 1) if you monitor water usage frequently it is easier to make corrections so that you do not go over your allowed units per the 25% reduction. 2) I have discovered that the units billed does not actually reflect usage for the 60 or 61 day billing period. On my last bill the units were in error by over 10% because the water department took the reading six days after the billing period had ended. A 10% error could easily place you in the penalty area, especially in the summertime. If you do get a penalty and you can prove that the reading for the billing period was not on the correct date, Dan Smith will have no recourse but to rescind the penalty or face a lawsuit.

3 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 22, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Or better yet we take the homeowners who can't seem to cut their usage by at least 25% and send them all down to San Diego where their usage is up by 8% over the last year! You would think they would send us a thank you card or maybe a gift basket for giving them our water!! Great planning zone 7, job well done.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:43 am

If the water districts are going to fine users then EVERY person in the entire state must be held accountable. When we visit Southern California none of the people we visit have EVER had mandatory water reduction except in Cambria. We should ALWAYS be mindful of water consumption. Only 2.5% of the world's water is fresh. This should be a daily practice. Therefore, whether in Pleasanton or anywhere ... conserve.
It was a wise decision not to fine unless EVERYONE in California is held to the same standard.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Couples: Reading List
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,059 views

New Donlon school is at least four years away
By Tim Hunt | 1 comment | 734 views