May Meeting Recap

by Hilary Crosby

Our May meeting featured Andy Katz, President of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Board of Directors. He was first elected in 2006 and ran unopposed in 2010. Besides having a deep involvement with fresh water and wastewater management, he is also a public health advocate.

He provided us with a historical overview of the evolution of municipal water utilities that took over from private water companies. In earlier times in our area, private companies that took the water from Lake Anza provided our fresh water. Eventually, this source couldn’t provide enough water to keep up with the demand from the growing neighborhoods. Municipal Utility Districts were formed to build, operate, and maintain the infrastructure needed to meet these growing demands.


Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, our federal government invested tremendously in infrastructure. One of the many results of that New Deal was the creation of the East Bay Municipal Water District—now known as East Bay Municipal Utility District or EBMUD.

Today, much of our infrastructure is failing, including some of EBMUD’s. Regular, proactive maintenance is needed. If it is not performed, there will be costly consequences. Recently, EBMUD had a main line break that had to be repaired quickly and required maintenance crews to work overtime. We need to plan maintenance—take mains off line on a schedule, during regular work hours, using materials and replacement pipe ordered through a planned system. Reacting to emergencies requires expensive overtime and emergency procurement, driving up costs and reducing the reliability of the system.

The water we drink in El Cerrito comes from the Pine Spring in Alpine County, which is part of Mokelumne Watershed that runs along the Amador/Calaveras County line. EBMUD has literally built bridges over that river which is the physical representation of the bridges built between the East Bay counties and the eastern counties of the state, where our water comes from.

In the American West, water is treated like real estate. EBMUD has primary water rights to the Mokelumne River. We store our water in the Pardee Reservoir that holds 325 million gallons. Did you know, on average, we use 160 million gallons of water a day in the East Bay? This is significantly less than the average 190+ million gallons per day we have used in the past.

The major portion of our water is used by businesses. For example, the Chevron refinery in Richmond uses nine million of the 160 million gallons of water a day that comes into West Contra Costa County. Countywide, 3-5% of EBMUD customers use 20% of the water. Most of the consumption is in Dublin and Pleasanton where there are large residential homes with big lawns and swimming pools. Conserving water is important because a best practice is to have enough water stored in case there’s a three-year drought. The new EBMUD conservation plan calls for doubling conservation. This would include homeowner incentives to replace appliances, to convert lawns to drought resistant and to use recycled water.

In the department of good news/bad news, water exports from the Delta have created sites that are useless for agriculture but can become collection sites for solar energy. What about the all the water news surrounding the Delta? Mr. Katz told us he hasn’t taken a stance on the Delta issue, mainly because the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that contains the information necessary to make a decision is 20,000 pages long and he hasn’t had a chance to read it all yet!

There was a question about who will “own” the aqueduct infrastructure that crosses the Delta. Given some of the proposals out there, EBMUD could end up as the only stakeholder left in the Delta with responsibility for the entire infrastructure.

Other negative impacts of the tunnel include:

  • If the state water project is implemented, EBMUD could be left with sole responsiblity for the Delta’s health. Essentially, all the Sacramento River water would be expended and many fish species could be in danger
  • The tunnel/s under the Delta could cost over a billion dollars

Mr. Katz also informed us about construction work in El Cerrito to be completed over the next several years. Water-conveying pipes, 48 inches in diameter, will be replaced. He agreed that the construction could be disruptive and outlined steps to mitigate it. There won’t be any water flow disruption, but there will be closures of some residential streets during some phases. He believes the worst impact will be on neighborhood residential parking. There are public hearings on this project coming up, and members are urged to attend:

  • Wednesday, June 12th at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley at 2407 Dana
  • Wednesday, June 19th at the Maple Hall, 13831 San Pablo Ave #4 at Alvarado Square inside the San Pablo City Hall Complex.
  • Wednesday, June 26th at El Cerrito High School, 540 Ashbury Avenue, El Cerrito

All meetings start at 1 pm.

May Meeting and Program Planning

By Carla Hansen

The May Club meeting will feature Andy Katz, President of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) Board of Directors. Katz plans to give Club members an overview of California water supply issues potentially affecting EBMUD and its customers, long-term water supply management and water conservation, and energy efficiency policies throughout the East Bay.

This article provides a brief background of what the District does, water-policy issues affecting the District and interesting programs the District has implemented. Andy Katz will speak in more depth about these subjects at our next meeting. EBMUD provides drinking water from the Mokelumne River watershed in the Sierra Nevada foothills collected in the Pardee and delivered to 1.3 million people throughout Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. In addition, the District provides water treatment to 650,000 people within the same area.

One major long-term problem facing water customers throughout the Bay Area is the inadequacy of water flowing through the Delta to sustain the amount of demand down river. This problem also incorporates the health of the water and its inhabitants (fish and wildlife). Numerous State agencies are attempting to solve this problem through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The 50-year plan (still in draft form and receiving public comment) seeks the “recovery of native fish and wildlife species in the Delta while also stabilizing water delivery to customers and farmland.”

The outcomes of this plan will directly affect EBMUD’s “long-term supply management program 2040” which estimates water supply needs over 30 years and proposes a number of policy initiatives addressing the effects of climate change-extreme drought and storms.

In addition to supplying most of the East Bay with clean drinking water, EBMUD also processes wastewater. Although wastewater isn’t a sexy policy subject, EBMUD has implemented an innovative way to turn waste into renewable energy and is the only utility district in the United States to do it.

Essentially, the system generates electricity from organic waste like grease, oil and food scraps gathered from waste haulers in San Francisco and the East Bay. The District gathers this waste into huge tanks where it decays and produces methane. The methane is then used to power a large 11-megawatt turbine that generates electricity. The electricity generated can power the entire wastewater treatment plant.

Who knew the utility district in our own backyard produced renewable energy?

Unless you’re Andy Katz or have special place in your heart for water and wastewater policy, you might not wake up and brood over this topic. But we all turn on our water faucets and expect instant, clean and safe drinking water. After even a high-level look into this topic, I have a new interest in water policy, and I expect after our May meeting
most of you will too.

Here’s a little more about our May speaker: Andy Katz is the President of the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors, representing Ward 4, which includes El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, and a portion of Oakland. He was first elected to the EBMUD Board in 2006. He is a clean air attorney and public health advocate for Breathe California, and is a former Chair of Sierra Club California. Prior to his election to the EBMUD Board, he served for five years as a member of the city of Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board.

He has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of City Planning degree from U.C. Berkeley, a law degree from Santa Clara University, and lives in Berkeley.

Healthcare Movie screenings

The Healthcare Movie, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland. Read the HealthCare Movie Flyer for additional details.

Two free screenings of The Healthcare Movie are scheduled:

  • Saturday, May 18, 10:30 AM at El Cerrito City Hall.
  • Wednesday, May 22, 2:30 PM at El Cerrito City Hall.

The movie is 65 minutes long, and will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A.

Sponsored by Healthcare for All, the League of Women Voters, and the City of El Cerrito’s Committe on Aging.