Alameda County — The Zone 7 board recently voted in favor of a 15% water conservation mandate for customers this fall, but directors quickly added that enforcement of such a demand lies with the water retailers.

In a recent meeting of the Zone 7 board, President Angela Ramirez Holmes and General Manager Valerie Pryor explained that it is important for the public to know the agency does not have the power to invoke a mandatory rationing policy — it is up to the water retailers that serve each city in the Tri-Valley. The retailers include the City of Pleasanton Operations Services; City of Livermore Water Resources Division; California Water Service Company; and Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD). As the Tri-Valley region’s water wholesaler, the Zone 7 board can only report on water supply availability and the amount of water each retailer orders.

A dry year is forecast for 2023, and the prospect of consecutive years of severe drought weighed heavily on the board’s decision to back the 15% mandatory conservation. This year, the state has assigned Zone 7 only 5% of its normal capacity. It looks as if that will be repeated in 2022, said Pryor.

Mandatory conservation will be a distinct switch from the voluntary policy that retailers declared in March 2021. At that time, they asked for 10% conservation. They later boosted it to 15% to match Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide request in July 2021.

But Tri-Valley residents responded to the voluntary policy with only 7% conservation, which directors cited as a motivator to require the 15% mandate as soon as possible.

Zone 7 Director Sandy Figuers said that for the previous 10 years, many residents made their homes and lawns more water efficient. Now, she said, there is not much more they can do other than to simply use less water.

During the meeting, representatives from two of the retailers spoke to the board.

DSRSD Assistant General Manager Jan Lee said DSRSD opposed one of the five alternatives outlined in a Zone 7 staff report. Lee noted that alternative would limit irrigation to three times per week during the current irrigation season — a move that violates her agency's policy. Lee added that she wanted specific numbers from Zone 7 about predictions on water availability and demand.

Kathleen Yurchak, director of operations and water utilities in Pleasanton, said that in the 2014-16 drought, people achieved 25% conservation.

“It’s important to talk to (other) retailers,” said Yurchak. “A coordinated community (in dealing with water conservation) is the most effective approach.”

Zone 7 Director Olivia Sanwong said she appreciated DSRSD and Pleasanton’s calls for specific data, which she noted amounted to quantifying the shortage.

“However, I don’t want to wait for Gov. Newsom in September before we start our conservation here," Sanwong added.

Zone 7 directors each expressed which options they liked from a list of five presented by staff. All favored Option 3, which was to start mandatory conservation as soon as possible.

Director Dennis Gambs said he is giving “qualified support” for Option 3, but stated that Option 4 might be better, as it calls for starting in 2022, when more data can be available.

Board Lines Up

Los Vaqueros JPA

The board did not take any action, but unanimously supported continuation of Zone 7 efforts to be a part of the expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir.

The Contra Costa Water District (CCWD), which owns Los Vaqueros, will join Zone 7 and six other Local Agency Partners (LAPS) that can benefit from water storage there to pay $202 million, or 22% of the total $895 million in cost. The remainder will come from the state (52%) and federal government (25%). The percentage totals 99% because the dollar amounts are rounded off.

Zone 7 wants 10,000-acre feet from the project. An acre foot (AF) is the area covered by an acre of water 1 foot deep. Some 10,000 AF is enough to annually meet demands of 20,000 households.

Los Vaqueros storage is one of the tools that Zone 7 has listed to meet future water demands. Others include potable reuse of treated wastewater, desalination projects linked via pipelines from brackish water in the Carquinez Strait, the single diversionary tunnel bypassing the Delta and possible creation of Sites Reservoir northeast of Sacramento.

Zone 7 has participated in the Los Vaqueros planning effort since 2016. Since then, the agency has invested $1.2 million in planning, design and environmental review. Now CCWD is asking for another $900,000 to move ahead on planning, design and environmental approvals through Dec. 31, 2022.

Zone 7 directors said at the Aug. 18 meeting that they will back the expenditure of $900,000. However, since Zone 7 hopes to secure a lower price, the agency authorized Pryor to negotiate cost amounts with CCWD once they take action at another regular board meeting.