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State Could Begin Slapping $500 Fines on Water Wasters

Scott Lucas | July 16, 2014 | Story Politics

This is what happens when we don't listen. This January, in the face of the most parched drought in 500 years, Governor Jerry Brown asked Californians to cut their water use by 20 percent. And what happened? According to the most recent data, water use this May has increased by one percent compared to the average use from 2011-2013.

So now this is happening: The state's Water Resources Control Board has voted 4-0 to impose new restrictions on outdoor water use. Violations carry a $500 fine.

Here in the Bay Area, residents are at least trying—with consumption cuts measured at five percent of normal use. Good luck getting our neighbors to the south to follow suit: Water use in L.A., Riverside, and San Diego rose by eight percent. (Reason to support that Six Californias proposal? You decide.) Though most regions of the state cut their use, with the Sacramento watershed seeing the largest decrease, none hit the Governor's 20% target,

According to the San Jose Mercury, "The new rules ban washing cars without a nozzle on a hose; watering driveways or sidewalks; using potable water in ornamental fountains; and over-watering landscaping so that water runs off into roads and adjacent properties. Recycled water is exempt." The new rules take effect on August 1st. Specific water use rules are managed by local agencies—but the state's water board also voted to levy big fines on those that don't issue mandatory conservation plans. (But it did allow an exemption in power washing for public health—so San Francisco's anti-poop patrol can stay in operation.)

San Francisco on Tuesday put in place stricter water consumption enforcement, with the city's Public Utilities Commission voting to make water conservation mandatory. It's put in place a phone number for residents to report violations, and will be sending out staff members to write tickets and impose fines. Other Bay Area water agencies, like the Contra Costa Water District, have been relying on voluntary compliance with water rules.

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