The Eastern Municipal Water District board members voted this week to move the utility into a ”Stage 3 Water Contingency Plan” — meaning higher costs for customers who exceed their monthly ”water budget.”
“This decision is not easy, but it is necessary,” EMWD President Phil Paule said. “Our customers must view this as a call to action and take the necessary steps to reduce water consumption.”
Water budgets are standardized according to the type of dwelling, with a tiered rate structure, based on the typical amount of water consumed for indoor and outdoor use.
The average California household consumes about 360 gallons of water per day — or 10,800 gallons per month — according to a 2011 study commissioned by the California Department of Water Resources. EMWD customers’ water budgets are generally above that threshold, particularly in the summer.
However, if users exceed their allocation, they are placed in the next- highest cost tier and will have to pay more for their water.
The Stage 3 Water Contingency Plan erases “variances” that the EMWD previously granted for customers with pools and lots in need of landscaping improvements. No water rationing will be imposed, but people can expect to pay more for the water needed for such purposes.
Customers identified as water wasters also risk being fined, according to the EMWD. Penalties range from $25 to $100 for violations such as using sprinklers during the day, hosing down driveways and washing vehicles without spray control nozzles.
‘We are asking our customers to be responsible for their usage,” Paule said. ”Basic steps such as ensuring sprinkler systems are not watering sidewalks are vital to preventing water waste. In the middle of one of the worst droughts in our state’s history, allowing irrigation systems to send water flowing down the street is no longer something we can turn a blind eye to.”
The EMWD serves about 758,000 people over a 542-square-mile area, from Moreno Valley south along Interstate 215 to Temecula, and east to the San Jacinto Valley. The agency, like most other Inland Empire water suppliers, has taken steps to deter excess water consumption following Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought state of emergency declaration in January, and the State Water Resources Control Board’s mandate last month. The mandate states local water agencies impose penalties for excess consumption and waste. The current drought, stemming from consecutive winters with precipitation and snow packs well below normal, has been compared to conditions in 1977, when 47 of the state’s 58 counties declared local drought emergencies.