East Bay Municipal Utility District officials fielded questions at a news conference Friday about the district's revelation of a list of 1,108 households that have been penalized for using more than 1,000 gallons of water per day.
EBMUD on Thursday released the identity of customers who in a two-month billing cycle between July and August violated the Excessive Use Policy Ordinance, which imposed fines on suspected water wasters as a reaction to the state's drought.
Abby Figueroa, spokeswoman for EBMUD, during a press conference this morning said this type of information has not been released by EBMUD since 1991, during another tough drought year. And there are even more customers who are potential violators, Figueroa said, because not all water meters have been read yet. Meaning more names will be released in coming months, she said.
But Figueroa said it was never the intention of EBMUD to discourage water wasting by exposing excessive water users.
"We're protective of our customers' information," she said. Later she added, "We don't believe drought shaming is the way to go."
Figueroa stressed Friday that the release of names, addresses and usage of customers who were penalized for excessive water use was necessary under public records laws. She also emphasized that all customers were informed about the Excessive Use Policy Ordinance, which went into effect July 1, and those near limits were sent warning letters in advance of their bill. Under the ordinance, single-family residential customers who use more than 80 units, or 59,840 gallons of water per billing period, are subject to a $2 penalty for each unit over that threshold. Each unit equates to 748 gallons.
Figueroa said customers in the list of violators faced penalties that ranged from the minimum $2 to more than $1,800.
According to a database prepared by the Bay Area News Group, Billy Beane, the Oakland A's executive vice president of baseball operations, makes the list of leading water wasters. Beane, a Danville resident, had the third-highest total of water use at 5,996 gallons per day, according to the compilation of EBMUD data released to some media outlets Thursday.
Venture capitalist and Alamo resident Mark Pine was second on the list at 8,091 gallons of water per day.
And at the top of the list was George Kirkland, of Danville, a former Chevron executive who used 12,579 gallons per day, 50 times more than the average user. He told NBC Bay Area the pipes that irrigate his vineyard had a leak.
Many of the households that violated the ordinance were in East Bay communities with larger properties, Figueroa said, such as Danville and Alamo. EBMUD expected that would be the case.
"Yet our board drew a line (regardless)," she said. "Because this is the most severe drought in a generation."
This year, EBMUD declared a Stage 4 critical drought and set a community-wide goal to reduce water use 20 percent compared to 2013.
EBMUD's total water reserves are at 46 percent capacity, Figueroa said. It has dwindled to well below normal levels, she added.