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City’s Water Conservation and Drought Management Program
San Ramon helping to save water during drought

>>>Dowload the EBMUD article "Success Story - City of San Ramon"<<<


Following two consecutive years of lower than average rainfall coupled with an increased demand for water, East Bay Municipal Utility District [EBMUD] reservoirs are at their lowest levels since the last severe drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The governor has called for a 20% reduction in water use statewide.

San Ramon has been trying to do its part since 1989, when the City began installing a computerized irrigation management system that can be adjusted to water automatically based on weather conditions and can be centrally monitored by Public Services staff. Also, at least half of the City’s parks are on recycled water for irrigation use.

Upcoming water conservation changes by the City include:

  • Reduce watering in landscaping and turf areas by at least 10%.
  • Defer annual color plantings in parks and medians
  • Reduce washing down of hardscape such as tennis courts, sidewalks
  • Use slow release fertilizers to maintain a steady growth habit
  • Install water savings devices in city facilities such as low flow shower heads, faucet aerators
  • Reduce frequency of vehicle washing for city vehicles


Following two consecutive years of lower than average rainfall coupled with an increased demand for water, EBMUD reservoirs are at their lowest levels since the last severe drought in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Governor has called for a 20% reduction in water use statewide. Other water service providers, such as Zone 7 and DSRSD, have asked for voluntary water cutbacks of at least 10%.

In order to encourage and enforce water conservation, EBMUD has implemented a "Drought Management Program" citing emergency regulations and restrictions on water use which went into effect for billing periods beginning May 19, 2008 and will continue until amended or rescinded by the EBMUD Board of Directors. The program imposes mandatory water use cutbacks for all EBMUD customers. The goal for EBMUD is to achieve an overall District wide 15% reduction in water use based on average usage for the past three consecutive years. To do this, EBMUD identifies six different water user types all with different water use reduction requirements as follows:

Customer Type

Water Use Reduction

Single Family Residential


Multi-Family Residential










The City of San Ramon has 198 EBMUD accounts (meters) of which 187 are classified as Irrigation and 11 are classified as Commercial. The Public Services Department’s operating budget for FY 2008/09 includes $1,637,500 for water which includes water from all sources [EBMUD, DERWA, DSRSD]

In addition, EBMUD’s drought management program prohibits the use of water for a number of purposes including:

  • Using water for decorative ponds, lakes, fountains, except for those that recycle.
  • Washing cars, boats, trailers, etc. by hose without a shutoff nozzle.
  • Washing sidewalks, walkways, driveways, patios, parking lots or other hard surfaced areas with water.
  • Irrigating lawn, gardens, or landscaping on consecutive days or more frequently than three days per week and irrigating in a manner that causes excessive flooding or runoff.
  • Flushing sewers, hydrants, or washing streets with potable EBMUD water, except in cases of emergency and for essential operation.
  • Using potable EBMUD water for construction if a feasible alternative source of water for construction exists.
  • Using potable EBMUD water for soil compaction and dust control if a feasible alternative source exists.

City of San Ramon Water Management Practices and Standards

Recognizing that water is a limited resource and a major utility expense, San Ramon has consistently taken a responsible approach to water management. In 1989, the City began installing the Calsense irrigation management system which has the ability to adjust watering automatically based on weather conditions and can be monitored though a centralized computer system by Public Service staff. This allows staff to precisely apply irrigation water. The system detects changes in flow or other problems such as broken heads and sends an alert to the central computer on a daily basis. Staff then can make repairs or correct problems efficiently and quickly, often before it is noticed by others thus saving water that would otherwise unknowingly be going down the drain. Today, the City has over 310 Calsense irrigation controllers in the field running through two centralized computer systems at the San Ramon Service Center.

One of the most important features of the Calsense system is the use of evapotranspiration data (ET). ET is a measurement of the moisture in the soil that evaporates and water that plants transpire into the atmosphere. ET is measured by special gauges in the field. The ET information is shared with all of the controllers via the centralized control system. The controllers then automatically adjust the run times based on the ET data, thereby minimizing overwatering or underwatering. The City’s current standard is to irrigate landscapes at a target rate of 100% ET, returning to the landscape only the water that is lost to the atmosphere. This standard provides for optimum plant health and appearance while minimizing water waste. Another feature of the system is the reporting capabilities. Staff can create water budgets based on ET, monitor use relative to the water budget and prepare informative reports, track water use and indicate any water savings realized by using the ET system.

In addition to using a sophisticated irrigation control system the City has converted many parks and landscape areas to recycled water, greatly reducing the amount of potable water used for irrigation purposes

The City has initiated several immediate changes to reduce water usage in the City. Some of these are:


  • Reduced water at some sites from 100% targeted ET to 90% targeted ET.
  • Reprogrammed non-turf landscaping to not irrigate on consecutive days and no more than three times per week.
  • Defer annual color planting for the summer except where recycled water is available.
  • Reduce washing tennis court, basketball court and other hardscape surfaces from every two weeks to once a month.
  • Minimize supplemental watering for "hot spots". Use individual hose end sprinklers.
  • Reduce use of water for maintenance of skinned [dirt] infields.
  • Use only slow release fertilizers to maintain a steady growth habit and reduce water requirements.
  • Install master valve and timer on irrigation at community gardens to limit times and watering windows. While there are program policies prohibiting gardeners from leaving hoses running and unattended, the ability to monitor and control that is minimal.

Commercial – Buildings and Facilities

  • Post signs in all buildings near sinks, showers, etc advising/reminding customers and facility users to reduce water usage
  • Research EBMUD rebates available to the City for water saving devices such as shower heads, faucet aerators
  • Reduce frequency of vehicle washing of city vehicles.
  • Install low flow shower heads for the Aquatic Center as well as for other showers at San Ramon facilities.
  • Reduce watering infields for maintenance and dust control with potable water


  • Advise sports groups and user groups about City’s drought management program and its impact on parks, fields and facilities
  • Advise homeowner associations and property owners in City’s Landscape and Lighting District citywide and special zones about the City’s drought management program and its impact on turf and landscaping.
  • Install signage on city fountains advising of re-circulation feature

Some long term strategies are under consideration but not being implemented at this time until the City can determine the reduction impact that the immediate actions are having on the City’s water usage. Some of these are:

  • Shut off one or more of the City’s fountains
  • Prioritize water use by maintaining certain areas at current or slightly modified levels and allowing other lower priority areas to decline/dieback.
  • Eliminate watering infields for maintenance and dust control with potable water.
  • Increase the height of cut and/or extend the period between mowings on non-sports field turf areas.
  • Close park restrooms in selected areas
  • Eliminate all vehicle washing of city trucks/cars at Service Center. Utilize commercial car wash establishments on as-needed basis.

Click here for more Water Smart Tips from EBMUD

For more information on the City’s drought management and water conservation efforts, please contact Karen McNamara, Public Services Director at 925-973-2800 or kmcnamara@sanramon.ca.gov



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