Tag Archives: Berkeley weather

New book highlights drought-tolerant garden solutions

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Now that Governor Brown has issued the first-ever statewide mandates on water use, many of us are looking at our gardens through a new lens. How can we can reduce the amount of water they use? What are the most drought-tolerant plants? Should we ditch the lawn altogether?

Sunset’s brand new Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings, subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Border, and Containers” has come along at just the right time to answer those questions and help arm us for the dry seasons ahead. The book is edited by Sunset Magazine’s Garden Editor, Kathy Norris Brenzel. We spoke with Brenzel to learn more.

The new book couldn’t be more timely given new state-mandated water restrictions being imposed because of the drought. How seriously do you think gardeners in the West take the need to conserve water?

Most homeowners are taking the drought very seriously. I see it every day: browning lawns, lawns being removed and replaced with mulch and low, widely spaced shrubs or unthirsty perennials. The local hardware store sold out of buckets of all sizes recently — people were using them to collect shower water. Landscape designers tell me that they’re getting lots of requests for unthirsty front-yard meadows, and for succulent gardens.  … Continue reading »

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Proposed 130% sewer fee rate increase now up to voters

The city of Berkeley has extensive sewer system maintenance planned in coming years. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Berkeley officials approved a five-year sewer fee rate hike Tuesday night, and now it’s up to property owners to determine whether it will stick.

One thousand gallons of water currently costs about $4 to use in Berkeley for the average single family home. Beginning July 1, that same amount of water would cost about $6, an increase of 46%. By 2020, 1,000 gallons of water would cost $9.55, a 130% increase over the current rate.

The city says it needs to increase fees for sewer service to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer system and comply with federal mandates to improve the system in coming years. The rates take into account decreased water consumption during the drought, which staff believe will help moderate the amount property owners ultimately pay. Staff plan to return to council annually to report on system costs and fees, which council could potentially reduce if the city finds it is bringing in more money than it needs.

The unanimous Berkeley City Council vote Tuesday triggers a Proposition 218 process, which requires voter approval by property owners before local governments can increase certain fees. The city plans to mail notices to property owners this week, set to include a “protest ballot.” Ballots must be cast by June 26 by a majority of property owners to stop the increase, which otherwise will go into effect July 1. … Continue reading »

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City, already cutting, digs deeper to slash its water use

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Don’t expect lush green parks in Berkeley this summer, unless the watering is a surprise from the skies.

Already slashing its water use 26% last year, the city is taking steps to cut even more, it announced last week. Many of the cutbacks are required by Berkeley’s water supplier, the East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD), and/or by the state. They include:

  • No watering of street medians
  • Minimizing vehicle watering
  • Landscape watering, such as in parks and city grounds, twice a week before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. (already in effect last year)

“The City is also . . . exploring the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and street cleaning, and researching options for converting certain landscapes to more drought-tolerant ground cover,” the city said in a recent press release.

Read more on how the drought is affecting Berkeley.

Worth noting: The city’s only water fountain at the Marin Circle uses recycled water, which means it can be kept on as it meets a new state requirement calling for a shutdown of all fresh water fountains. … Continue reading »

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Water conservation gets serious with restrictions, fines

EBMUD employee Mark Bolton at Camanche. Photo: EBMUD
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Hosing down your driveway, watering your yard more than twice a week, or washing your car with a hose without a shutoff nozzle are forbidden in Berkeley, as the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) faces its worst water supply in nearly 40 years.

These are a few of the new mandatory conservation restrictions announced last week by the utility district, which is seeking a 20% water reduction for all of its 1.3 million customers, compared to 2013.

The yard watering must be before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. and not within 48 hours of a measurable rainfall, and sidewalks can’t be washed either. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: How should water be priced in Berkeley?

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What does it cost for a typical Berkeley residential customer to use 500 gallons of water a month? 5,000 gallons? 10,000 gallons?

Given the scope of the drought California is experiencing, the results may surprise you.* After you pay the service charge, water is less than a penny per gallon in Berkeley, no matter how much you use.

As you can see in the chart above, a 500-gallon customer pays about $36/month, whereas a 10,000-gallon customer pays about $140/month. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley residents complain about ‘horrible’ water taste

Pardee Reservoir. Photo: EBMUD
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The drinking water for 1 million customers of East Bay Municipal Utilities District had an “off” odor and taste over the weekend and, while EBMUD is fixing the issue, customers might have to get used to it.

The culprit? The drought.

EBMUD usually draws the drinking water for the majority of its customers from the bottom of Pardee Reservoir, about 100 miles east of Berkeley, according to Abby Figueroa, a spokeswoman for EBMUD. But on Thursday, the water district started taking water from the top portion of the reservoir. The water there is warmer and contains some algae, so even though it was treated before gushing into pipes in Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere, there was a peculiar smell.

Read more about the California drought.

It takes about two days for the water to make its way to the Bay Area and when it arrived Saturday there was a flurry of emails and tweets to Berkeleyside about it. Figueroa said EBMUD has gotten about 200 emails, tweets, and phone calls about the taste as well.

Residents described the water as tasting like “raw meat,” or having a “metallic taste.” Others said it was “gross-smelling,” “horrible” or “weird.” … Continue reading »

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Photos: With some rain comes a rainbow over Berkeley

Rainbow at the Marina by Claudia Rice
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The sun peeked through the clouds early this morning creating a dramatic rainbow that appeared to plunge into the bay, perhaps leaving its treasure there?

At least four readers thought it was precious enough to photograph, and they shared their images with us before 8 a.m. (After this post was published, several more readers sent us their rainbow photos and we have added them to the collection.) … Continue reading »

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Winds may reach 55 mph in Berkeley this week

Gusty winds Monday and overnight through Tuesday morning call for a heightened alertness of fire danger, said BFD. Photo: Pete Rosos
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PG&E officials are warning that strong winds are expected to sweep Berkeley and other parts of the East Bay beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30. They are expecting that some homes will lose power because of downed power lines.

The strong winds will accompany a cold front that has already begun to move into the Bay Area from British Columbia, according to PG&E’s East Bay Government Relations Team. The winds are scheduled to last until 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31. Temperatures are set to drop into the 20s in some Bay Area locations. … Continue reading »

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Real weather in Berkeley – time to go storm chasing

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Jody Radzik is really into weather. Although a Berkeley resident now, he used to live in New Mexico where, as he puts it, “the weather is more interesting.”

Like a number of people living in “tornado alley” states, Radzik used to do a lot of storm chasing — tracking the weather on a radar while driving in the hope of seeing a tornado up close. He said he loved marveling at the drama of nature with other storm chasers. … Continue reading »

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Floods, outages keep Berkeley busy as storm hits

Flooding closed Ashby Avenue late Thursday afternoon. Authorities say it may be open by midnight. Photo: Jennifer Lazo
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Berkeley city workers handled more than 100 requests related to flooding, and more than 30 calls for tree-related issues, Thursday during a large storm that has been sweeping the Bay Area, authorities said.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city had received 127 calls about flooding as of nearly 3 p.m., and 34 calls about tree-related issues. All of those calls had been cleared by 5 p.m. Staff also gave out more than 5,000 sandbags to Berkeley residents, who were able to pick them up at locations around the city.

Malcolm X Elementary School also experienced significant flooding, and Chakko said the Berkeley Unified School District — which had shuttered all schools and offices Thursday due to the weather — was handling that issue.

See Berkeleyside’s live blog of the “Pineapple Express” storm’s local impacts.

There were several street closures, on Bolivar Drive and Bay Street, and around Ashby Avenue (which is also known as California 13). By late afternoon, Ashby around Interstate 80 had been closed in both directions due to flooding, authorities said. Ashby was expected to re-open by midnight Friday.

(Watch a playlist below of many storm-related videos shared with Berkeleyside by readers Thursday.) … Continue reading »

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Storm blog: Water mains break in Berkeley, Ashby expected to re-open by midnight

Earlier today, Codornices Creek at Ninth Street. Photo: Neil Mishalov
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Friday, Dec. 12, 12:25 a.m. Shortly before 11:30 p.m., reader William Abernathy reported a second water main break in the Berkeleyside comments section: “Main break 1300 block MLK. EBMUD alerted. No water til morning.”

Please send us storm footage, including photos and videos, and feel free to alert us to significant storm-related hazards. The best way to reach Berkeleyside is to email tips@berkeleyside.com. Twitter and Facebook work, too. Refresh this page for updates.

Dec. 11, 10:30 p.m. Several residents have reported that there is a large water main break at Seventh and Pardee streets in West Berkeley, which happened at about 9 p.m.

Said one reader shortly before 10 p.m.: “It blew out chunks of pavement and the last I saw a few minutes ago was shooting water diagonally into the air. EBMUD is now on scene.”

Reader Lisa Buckle Styling shared video of the geyser, which can be seen below. … Continue reading »

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Flood advisory for Alameda County, Bay Area, power outage in West Berkeley

Berkeley woke up to heavy rain on Tuesday Dec. 2. Photo: Colleen Neff
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The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory Tuesday for much of the Bay Area, including Alameda County, while around 700 Berkeley residents are without power in West Berkeley.

The “urban and small stream” flood advisory was issued at at 7:39 a.m. and is in place until 7:30 p.m.

Automated rainage and doppler radar indicated “excessive amounts of rainfall in the impacted areas,” the alert issued this morning read. “Runoff from heavy rainfall is expected to cause ponding or flooding on some roadways… poor drainage areas and low-lying spots,” the release continued.

The release said there had been reports of roadway flooding and rock/mud slides Tuesday morning, as well as “numerous reports of accidents due to wet roadways.” … Continue reading »

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Old pipe breaks, closes Grant Street in Berkeley; 40 customers without water

Bancroft Way at Grant Street at 11 a.m. after a water main break. Photo: Kelly Dorsey
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Dozens of central Berkeley residents around Grant Street and Bancroft Way have been dealing with a water main break since Friday morning.

Grant has been closed from Allston Way to Bancroft as crews work to fix the problem. Some lanes may be reopened as the work continues.

East Bay Municipal Utility District spokeswoman Abby Figueroa said customers called to report water in the street and lower-than-normal water pressure at 11 a.m. … Continue reading »

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