Hayward mayor proposes ‘work-at-home, skip-a-shower day’

Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday said she has been known to forsake a shower, but only if she plans to spend the entire day at home. The idea is just another of many for residents to conserve water during the state’s enduring drought.

“Maybe we can start a stay-at-home, work-at-home, skip-a-shower day?” Halliday joked Tuesday night as the Hayward City Council applied to own conservation plan additional cutbacks prescribed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to reduce statewide water usage by 25 percent.

The amendments to Hayward’s existing Water Shortage Contingency Plan include a prohibition on watering lawns and ornamental landscapes during and within 48 hours since the last rainfall, an instruction to restaurants and bars to only provide water when a customer specifically asks for it, and for hotels in Hayward to notify guests of an option to not launder their towels and linens

Hayward residents, however, already do a good job of saving water. Each day, they average 52 gallons of water per resident, said Alex Ameri, director of Public Works Utilities and Environmental Services. The amount is one of the lowest in the state and Hayward’s previous conservation efforts may translate to a lower restriction than the 25 percent across-the-board reduction ordered by Brown.

Not all municipalities may be treated equally, said Ameri, after the State Water Board hands down specific instructions for Brown’s executive order in early May, Hayward may only be ordered to reduce water usage by 10 percent, said Ameri due to its successful recent history of conservation.

In addition, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is Hayward’s water provider, may also impose a 10 percent ration on usage, said Ameri. Whether or not the SFPUC orders mandatory rationing rules could occur in July and put into effect on Aug. 1. At that point, the City Council could be asked to approve stricter conservation guidelines, Ameri added.

The growing issue of equity born out of Brown’s plan to place the brunt of water conservation on regular citizens rather the state’s agricultural interests, which put far greater burdens on the water supply, was discussed often by the Hayward City Council.

“I’m looking for fairness across the board. I want to be treated with respect when it comes to cutbacks,” Councilmember Marvin Peixoto said, within the context of other wealthy enclaves such as Atherton, where per capita water usage is sky-high in comparison to Hayward.

“Somebody told me it was idiotic for me to control my gallons [of water] when I wash dishes and when I bathe, but nothing to Nestle for stealing our water,” Councilmember Francisco Zermeno said, a common critique against the multinational corporation that also bottles water in the state.

What is the state doing? asked Councilmember Greg Jones. “What are we doing proactively to solve some of this? He suggested alternatives like employing gray water for irrigation and possibly a multi-tiered pay structure for those using more water. “We just can’t keep cutting or we’re going to be sitting around smelling pretty bad and I don’t look forward to that eventuality,” said Jones. “I like you all up here, but, please, keep taking a shower.”

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