PIEDMONT -- Piedmonters love the city's lush parks and gardens, as well as their own verdant landscaping.
But as of Friday, a statewide rule goes into effect that imposes new restrictions on outdoor watering that could result in fines up to $500 per violation. Those restrictions include: watering in a way that prevents runoff in gutters, patios and streets; using a hose with a shut-off nozzle to wash cars; using only recirculated water in fountains; and not using potable water to wash sidewalks or driveways.
Piedmonter and EBMUD board member Katy Foulkes said most of Gov. Jerry Brown's new edicts are already in the agency's regulations.
"At the meeting, we will discuss how to respond to the governor's request, and if we feel mandatory water rationing will be necessary," Foulkes said.
The public is encouraged to attend the EBMUD meeting to share their views and ask questions. More than two years ago, the city of Piedmont adopted a Bay-Friendly landscaping ordinance for civic areas that encourages the use of drought-friendly plants and limiting water use where practical. Other cities that have adopted "Bay-Friendly Basics" include Albany, Berkeley, San Leandro and Oakland.
Parks and Project Manager Mark Feldkamp said it's been a challenge to keep the city's landscape beautiful but water-wise. He estimated Piedmont has cut back water use by 10 percent or more.
Water sprinklers are set to run a limited time at night or early morning. Flowering succulents have replaced the annuals planted in pots at the entry to City Hall. The new Ramona/Ronada triangle was designed with a Mediterranean plant palette and a swale to slow and capture water runoff. The city is even considering checking out three old, unused wells located at Crocker, Hampton and Piedmont parks. But that process is costly and time-consuming, Feldkamp said.
Feldkamp has to pick and choose where water is needed most.
"I don't want to lose 50-year-old rhododendrons and azaleas. We want to keep the Japanese Tea House and Community Hall attractive because their use generates money for the city.
"Thousands of dollars of plant material has been donated to the city for beautification. How far do I push it? We walk a tightrope," Feldkamp said.
When it comes to residents, they vehemently rejected the idea of imposing a Bay Friendly ordinance in June 2012 on private homeowners, saying it was intrusive and unnecessary. So the council did not adopt it.
"We received more complaints about the Bay-Friendly (ordinance) than we did for Blair Park," Feldkamp said. "The citizenry wants to keep the government out of their yards. They spend millions on their homes, and they don't want Big Brother telling them what they can and cannot do.
"We are so small staffed we can't be water cops."
But, Feldkamp added, he believes many residents are using water-wise practices and doing their best to conserve during serious drought conditions.
Biologist and former Councilmember Garrett Keating is taking conservation to heart. He has buckets in every bathroom to capture shower warm-up water, which his family uses to fill toilet tanks. He estimated using two gallons every time the shower is turned on.
"Shorter showers, fewer flushes," Keating said.
Keating has cut back on sprinkling in the family's Bay-Friendly garden. He has collected about 1,000 gallons of rainwater he uses to drip-irrigate plants using a neighbor's uphill garage roof for collecting and dispensing the water. He also reported a broken sprinkler head in Dracena Park spewing water, which was quickly repaired by Public Works.
Piedmont Mayor Margaret Fujioka is also water conservation-savvy. She too uses a bucket to catch warm-up water in the shower which she uses for her plants. She set back her drip irrigation system and turns off the water during tooth brushing. She washes only full loads of laundry and dishes and turns off lights in unoccupied rooms.
"Saving energy and water go hand in hand. We can always do more, and we should. I'm confident Piedmonters will step up and do their part to comply with the new 10 percent voluntary reduction in water use," said Fujioka, who plans to ask Public Works staff to provide an update of the city's measures to deal with the drought.
Foulkes noted that EBMUD does investigate water-wasters who are reported to the agency.
"We go out and talk to the homeowners about how they can take care of their yard without wasting water. Have them check for leaks and other measures," she said.
EBMUD offers several water-saving devices for free, including low-flow shower heads, aerators for sinks, toilet bowl tablets that will signal a toilet leak and plastic water-filled bags to put in the toilet tank to reduce flushing water. People may also request a water audit for their home, although EBMUD staff are stretched thin during the drought.
EBMUD's jurisdiction extends to half of Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Alamo, Dublin and Danville, all communities with high summer temperatures, swimming pools and large landscaped lots. EBMUD advises keeping pools covered when not in use, and not refilling pools or spas during the drought crisis.
Foulkes said lawns may turn brown but will generally return, as well as plants and shrubs with deeper roots.
Consumers are indeed cutting back. Overall, EBMUD customers have cut back 10 percent of their usage since February. But as temperatures rise, as in recent weeks, so does water use.
EBMUD over the past decade has invested $1 billion on recycled water projects, conservation programs and additional water supplies. As of July 18, EBMUD had 436,120-acre-feet of water stored in its combined reservoirs, 68 percent of average.
"If we get an El Niño winter, even though the rain is welcome, what is more critical is the snow pack," Foulkes said. "But we do thank all the people who are doing their part to conserve water."
What: East Bay Municipal Utility District board meeting
When: 1:15 p.m. Aug. 12
Where: Board room, 11th and Webster streets, Oakland