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.