Water: A High Value Resource

Water is Valuable

This winter’s rain and snow have boosted California’s water supply, at least for now. But given our state’s history of volatile weather patterns, fluctuating from heavy rains to severe drought, water resilience and sustainability is an ongoing concern.  This means water is more valuable than ever. Let's dive deeper into what it takes to deliver safe, clean water to your home and how this vital resource touches nearly aspect of your life.

When you turn on the faucet and water flows on demand, it is easy to take safe, clean water for granted. What is potentially less visible to you is the high-value supply chain that reliably delivers that water to your home or business.

To better appreciate the value of water, imagine if it stopped flowing from the tap? At times in California water has stopped flowing in areas with severe drought (Mendocino, Central Valley) or forest fires (Paradise, Santa Rosa). To meet basic needs for drinking, cooking, and hygiene, water had to be trucked in at a significant cost and was limited in supply.  When clean, safe drinking water is not accessible, it disrupts everyday life, putting public health and safety as well as local economies at risk.

How Water Gets to Your Home

Having reliable access to water in your home depends on more than just robust rain and snowfall. There is a lot of infrastructure, water treatment processes, hundreds of miles of pipelines, and water utility personnel working together to deliver clean, safe water. 

The water cycle begins with fresh water sourced from snow and rain in mountains and rivers. Water is moved across the state through aqueducts, dams, and reservoirs. Some water is moved by gravity, but sometimes large, energy-intensive pumps are used to push water through the system. Water treatment plants ensure the water is safe and clean to drink. Treated water then flows through local distribution pipelines to customers’ homes and businesses.  Even with the many steps, miles traveled, and quality control points, your tap water costs much less than the cost of bottled or trucked-in water. 



East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD) and Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) are the two largest water suppliers to Contra Costa residents.  This chart summarizes their respective water sources and customer service areas.



East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD)

Contra Costa Water District  (CCWD)

Water Source

Sierra Nevada mountains via Mokelumne River/Aqueduct


EBMUD Water Cycle Video


Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Groundwater well supplements


CCWD Water Cycle Video

Customer Service Areas

Contra Costa County:

Crocket, Selby, Rodeo, Hercules, Pinole, El Sobrante, Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Kensington, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill (portion), Walnut Creek, Alamo


Alameda County:

Albany, Berkeley, Piedmont, Oakland, Alameda, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Fairview, Danville, Diablo, Blackhawk, San Ramon


EBMUD Service Area Map 


Treated Water Cities Served by CCWD:

Clyde, Concord, Martinez (portion), Pacheco, Pleasant Hill (portion), Port Costa, Walnut Creek


Municipal Systems:

Antioch, Bay Point-Golden State Water Company, Brentwood (portion), Martinez

Oakley – Diablo Water District, Pittsburg


 CCWD Service Area Map


 Climate Impacts Water Consumption Levels

Average water consumption levels in Contra Costa County vary based on location, climate, and time of year.  The cooler, damper west county service area has average water consumption between 50 and 80 gallons per day, while the warmer, dryer east county service area averages between 70 and 140 gallons per day.  Water consumption is lower in cool, wet winter months and higher in hot, dry summer months when more water is used for landscape irrigation.


 Water is a Critical Part of Everyday Life

Consumers and businesses use hundreds of gallons of water per month, mostly for purposes other than direct consumption (drinking or cooking).  Here is a sample of everyday activities and the average water consumed.



Gallons of Water Consumed Per Activity


      Efficient plumbing fixtures       & appliances

Less efficient plumbing fixtures & appliances

Showering for 10 minutes



Washing a load of laundry



Flushing toilet



Running the dishwasher



Washing face, brushing teeth



Drinking 8-8 oz. glasses of water



Multiply those figures times the number of people in your household times uses per month, and it adds up to hundreds of gallons per month.  Restaurants, medical service providers, farming, manufacturing, and other businesses also need water to operate. Water is also essential for helping put out fires. If the water stopped flowing, many of the services we depend on would also cease.

 Your water went through a lot to get to you, so make the most of it.  Turn off the faucet when water is not being used. Find and fix water leaks in your home…toilets and sprinklers are the main culprits. Pick water efficient plants in your garden and use smart, digital sprinkler systems.   Fill-up a reusable water bottle to quench your thirst on the go.

Investing in Water Infrastructure for Today and Future Generations

Much of our water infrastructure was initially built quite a long time ago.  So repairing and improving infrastructure is an ongoing necessity to keep our water flowing. This includes repairing pipelines and reservoirs, treatment plants, and pumping plants.

For EBMUD, about one-half water of customer water utility fees goes toward improving infrastructure and more than one-third goes to water treatment and service delivery. The remainder goes towards natural resource management (recreational parks, fisheries, watershed), customer service, environmental regulation compliance, and administration.

Large new infrastructure investments may require funding from taxpayer approved bonds, federal or state sponsored infrastructure funding, or low cost government agency loans.  These large projects can take years to plan, secure approvals and funding, design, and build.  Citizens play a role in this process by expressing their support (through letters to legislative representatives) and voting on water infrastructure legislation. 

 Wise Water Usage and Stewardship Needed

Reliable, safe, clean water is a valuable resource that we heavily depend on for everyday life, health, public safety, and economic prosperity. Delivering water to consumers requires significant infrastructure, maintenance, water quality processes, and personnel. While California has experienced above average rain and snow fall this winter season, a hot dry summer season can easily follow.  As expectations for continued extreme climate conditions increase the potential for drought and water scarcity, water is becoming an even more valuable resource. Efficient water usage will help make the water supply go further.  Ongoing investments in water infrastructure and water quality processes are essential to ensuring ongoing access to reliable, safe, clean water.

 Additional References



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  • This is a comprehensive look at water use and water sources. Thanks, for a great article.
  • Great article with accessible information and informative diagrams here, Liza!
    • Thank you!
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