California Approves Fines For Water-Wasters: $500 A Day During D - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

California Approves Fines For Water-Wasters: $500 A Day During Drought

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Sacramento, CA - (FOX 11 / AP) California water regulators voted Tuesday to approve fines up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing, as a report showed that consumption throughout the state has actually risen amid the worst drought in nearly four decades. The action by the State Water Resources Control Board came after its own survey showed that conservation measures to date have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction in water use sought by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Survey results released before the 4-0 vote showed water consumption throughout California had actually jumped by 1 percent this past May compared with the same month in previous years.

The fines will apply only to wasteful outdoor watering, including watering landscaping to the point that runoff flows onto sidewalks, washing a vehicle without a nozzle on the hose, or hosing down sidewalks and driveways.

"Our goal here is to light a fire under those who aren't yet taking the drought seriously," water board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said in an interview after the vote.

She called the vote historic, not only because the steps are unprecedented in California but because the board is trying to spread the burden of the drought beyond farmers and agencies that are trying to protect wildlife.

She said city and suburban residents are not fully aware of the seriousness of the three-year drought — the worst in California since the mid-1970s.

"We're all in this together," Marcus said. "This is our attempt to say ... this is the least that urban Californians can do."

The board estimates the restrictions, which take effect in early August, could save enough water statewide to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year.

Cities and water districts were given wide latitude on how the fines will be implemented. The full $500-a-day fine, considered an infraction, could be reserved for repeat violators, for example. Others might receive warnings or smaller fines based on a sliding scale.

The rules include exemptions for public health and safety, such as allowing cities to power-wash alleyways to get rid of human waste left by homeless people, to scrub away graffiti, and to remove oil and grease from parking structure floors.

If fines fail to promote conservation, Marcus said the board would consider other steps such as requiring water districts to stop leaks in their pipes, which account for an estimated 10 percent of water use, stricter landscape restrictions and encouraging water agencies to boost rates for consumers who use more than their share of water.

Even with the leeway granted to local governments and water districts, some managers were unhappy with the board's action.

Mark Madison, general manager of the Elk Grove Water District south of Sacramento, said the steps will unnecessarily punish customers who already have reduced consumption. Residents in his district have cut water use by more than 18 percent since last year.

"What you're asking me to do right now is to thank them with a sledgehammer," he told the board.

The increased usage noted in the report is attributable to two regions of the state: Southern California coastal communities and the far northeastern slice of the state. It was not immediately clear why consumption had increased in those areas.

No region of California met Brown's request for a 20 percent reduction, but some came closer than others. Communities that draw from the Sacramento River reduced consumption the most, by 13 percent, while those along the North Coast reduced consumption by 12 percent.

San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California cities that draw from the Colorado River decreased water use by 5 percent.

Cities and suburbs use about 20 percent of the state's water, with about half going outdoors. Agriculture is by far the greatest water user, accounting for 75 percent of consumption in the state.

California farmers are just as guilty of using too much water as their urban neighbors, according to a separate report released Tuesday. The study by the University of California, Davis, found that some farmers could see their wells run dry next year unless the state sees a wet winter.

From Christina Gonzalez:

You are watering your front lawn. Suddenly, a man wearing a DWP vest approaches you.

"Busted" you think. Perhaps, but don't run just yet.

DWP's outreach team is out and about, but at this point, they are trying to make sure people know about L.A.'s water conservation ordinance. Turns out that residents in the city have been doing well, better than the rest of the state, according to water conservation officials.

Nevertheless, about 40% of all drinking water in the city is used, not for drinking, or washing dishes. It's used for landscape irrigation. Those green laws are thirsty, but it turns out that the conservation regulations can actually make watering more effective.

For example, why can't residents use sprinklers between 9am and 4pm? The sun is high and most of the water evaporates before it sinks into the ground, where roots use it. So that rule makes some sense.

Nevertheless,  residential customers can use sprinklers, three days a week. If your home street address number ends in an odd number (1,3,,5,7 or 9), use your sprinkler Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (again, before 9 and after 4).

Even numbered addresses (ending in 0, 2.4.6. or 8) get to use sprinklers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. If your address ends up in a fraction (2431 1/2 for example) they are treated as whole numbers (2431, an odd number, in our example). No sprinklers on Saturdays.

You can water plants using a hose any day, before 9 and after 4. If you are washing your car, you must use a water nozzle that can shut off.

There's a lot more to it, although quite a bit is common sense (don't water when it's raining).

You can find out a lot more, including information about rebates for new water saving toilets and washers, by going to the website:

You can also tip them about water wasters near you, even those city parks with broken sprinklers, and the freeway ones going off in the middle of the day! by going to:

Most of the regulations to be considered by the board are aimed at reducing outdoor water use in cities and towns, which the board said accounts in some areas for more than half of residents’ daily water use.

The regulations would prohibit over watering of lawns and landscaping that causes runoff onto sidewalks or streets, washing sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces, using a hose to wash a vehicle unless the hose has a shut-off nozzle and using drinking water in a fountain or decorative water feature unless the water is recirculated.

Violations would be infractions punishable by fines of up to $500 a day, and tickets could be written by any public employee empowered to enforce laws. While $500 is the daily maximum, most cities are likely to have a sliding scale that starts with a warning and builds for repeat violations.

“We are in a drought of historic proportions,” board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “Many urban water users don’t realize how bad this drought is. They’re not seeing the communities that are actually running out of water. … They don’t see the streams and creeks running dry.”

If the board adopts the regulations after hearing comments during a July 15 public meeting in Sacramento, the rules would take effect immediately and remain in effect for nine months.

They do not target indoor water use, such as doing the laundry or dishes, although some individual cities and water districts have asked or required their users to reduce overall water consumption.

Marcus said the restrictions to be considered next week represent what the water board considers the minimal level of conservation.

“We’re not doing standards here that say you have to kill your lawn,” Marcus said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t take a shower. … It just means, think about it.”

She said the board might consider additional steps as the drought continues.

Under the proposed rules, urban water agencies would have to implement their water-shortage contingency plans to require mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use, if they have not done so already.

Water agencies without such a plan would have to act within 30 days to require their residents to restrict outdoor irrigation to no more than two days each week or take other mandatory steps to conserve the same amount of water.

Water agencies that do not comply could face fines up to $10,000 each day.

The generally obscure State Water Resources Control Board is assuming a more high-profile role during California’s drought, which has left some communities scrambling for drinking water and led to thousands of farm acres being fallowed.

The board usually regulates such things as wastewater and irrigation discharges to rivers and the ocean, as well as any activity that changes a waterway or harms water quality.

But the board’s five members, who are appointed by the governor, are acting under Gov. Jerry Brown’s emergency drought proclamation in January and a related executive order in April, as well as drought legislation he signed in March. Last week, for example, the board adopted a different set of emergency regulations that will accelerate enforcement of orders prohibiting some junior water rights holders from diverting water from rivers and streams.

The additional restrictions the board will consider next week were proposed after a recent survey of water suppliers serving 25 million Californians showed that current voluntary and mandatory conservation efforts had resulted in just a 5 percent decline in use through May. Brown is seeking a 20 percent reduction.

The survey found 30 percent of water suppliers had imposed mandatory restrictions that include limits on outdoor irrigation, washing vehicles and filling ornamental fountains and swimming pools.

Water use already was down the last three years because of dry conditions and poor economic conditions, and the survey found a significant reduction this May compared with the previous three years.

Nearly all those who responded said they had increased their conservation outreach, while 40 percent had increased their enforcement and monitoring. Two-thirds of the suppliers are requesting 20 percent water conservation, and 7 percent changed their water rates in response to the drought.


The State Water Resources Control Board will consider ordering mandatory restrictions on urban water use, backed up by fines, during its July 15 meeting in Sacramento. If adopted, the emergency regulations would remain in effect for nine months. Prohibited activities would include:

Watering landscapes to the point that it causes runoff to adjacent property, sidewalks, streets and other areas.Using water to wash hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways. Using a hose to wash a vehicle unless the hose has a shut-off nozzle. Using drinking water in a fountain or decorative water features unless the water is recirculated. Penalties: Violations would be infractions punishable by fines of up to $500 each day. However, most cities have a sliding scale that starts with a warning and increases for repeat violations. Tickets could be written by any public employee empowered to enforce laws.Urban water agencies would be required to implement their water-shortage contingency plans to require mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use, if they haven’t done so already. Those agencies without a plan would have 30 days to begin requiring their residents to restrict outdoor irrigation to no more than two days each week or take other mandatory steps to conserve the same amount of water.Water suppliers who don’t comply could face fines up to $10,000 each day.

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