As Emeryville residents look for ways to cut back on water usage during our State’s historic drought, one Emeryville mall seems to have been ignoring calls to conserve water. The Bay Street Shopping Center was observed power washing their sidewalks, much to the chagrin of resident and E’ville Eye tipster, Christine (her first name for privacy). She first alerted fellow residents of the mall’s almost daily wasteful behavior on Nextdoor.com on May 21st.
“Residents suffer with increased fees and different tasting water … while our community water is literally going down the drains to wash side walks,” Christine noted. “This is a perfect example of how careless these big businesses are.” Christine also noted that the city actually received some rain the day she saw the power washer working.
Power washing sidewalks is illegal under new drought restrictions enacted by Gov. Jerry Brown, except for health and safety concerns. However, the State Water Resources Control board does allow the use of disinfected recycled water instead. It should be noted that it cannot be absolutely confirmed whether the water used to power wash the mall’s sidewalks was potable or recycled. An observer noted that because of the source & connection of the hose that is was most likely potable water.
A memo distributed by City Manager Sabrina Landreth and posted on the City website outlines these measures:
The State mandate prohibits the use of potable water for: washing sidewalks and driveways; decorative water features that do not recirculate the water; outdoor irrigation during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation; using hoses without a shutoff device; and excessive runoff when irrigating.
Christine noted that when she confronted a security guard about the infraction, the guard tried to prevent her from taking photos of the incident. Residents posted suggestions on Nextdoor for Christine to contact local media. Others called for bigger fines for water wasters. Since Christine’s post was published, City Councilwoman Dianne Martinez replied that she has been in contact with Bay Street Mall management Madison Marquette regarding her concerns with water being wasted and that the mall has reached out to the contractor responsible for the power washing. “The complaint was forwarded to Madison Marquette on 5/21, and confirmation of getting the landscaper in line with policy was sent that same day” noted Martinez through email.
The resident advocacy efforts ended up being effective and Madison Marquette seems to have reacted responsively to the complaints. Christine reports that since she publicized the incident three weeks ago, the Bay Street Mall management has stopped sidewalk power washing and are now manually sweeping and spot-cleaning the mall. They are also hand-watering plants with recycled water they have paused the large fountain at the mall entryway.
EBMUD declared a Stage 4 drought in early May, outlining activities that are consider illegal and wasteful of water. These restrictions include garden watering before 9am or after 6pm, and on no more than two non-consecutive days per week with no runoff. In addition, watering a lawn within 48 hours of measurable rainfall is prohibited.
The City of Emeryville published their report this past April, detailing the water savings measures the City has taken. The City has restricted or curtailed landscape irrigation. In addition, the Department of Public Works has installed over 50 water saving devices on city property. It has also encourage residents to make drastic cuts to their water usage. To date, EBMUD shows water storage levels at 53 percent full, with precipitation only 58 percent of average this season. EBUD has an online form to report but notes “due to the high volume of incidences reported, follow-up may take up to a week or more.”