Californians could face up to $500 fines for wasting water amid drought

California

SAN DIEGO – California’s drought crisis is pushing officials to call for 15% reductions in water usage in communities throughout the state. Those found wasting water now could end up fined up to $500 a day, a new proposal from the California State Water Resources Control Board shows.

Under proposed emergency regulations, code enforcement offices could look for water wasters with those observed washing cars without a shutoff nozzle or residents watering lawns within 48 hours of a rain event potentially subjected to fines. The resolution will be considered by the state board in a Jan. 4 meeting.

But local leaders say San Diegans likely don’t have reason to be concerned at the moment.

“We’ve been preparing our residents for decades to make sure we do brown out our lawns or replace it with AstroTurf or we have nozzles in our showers or low-flow toilets,” San Diego City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert said. “These have become permeant parts of our lifestyle, which has let us become the leaders that we are.”

Long-term water savings habits have assisted the county in preparing for inevitable drought conditions, according to Jeff Stephenson, water resources manager for the San Diego County Water Authority.

“We’ve done a really great job,” Stephenson said. “Citizens, residents, all of us together have done a good job of being really efficient with our water use.”

While northern eastern and sections of southern California struggle with water usage San Diego is producing its own. The Carlsbad desalination plant is helping, and the proposed pure water program is also expected to assist San Diego’s water needs.

As for enforcement, county and city leaders don’t think they will be handing out many tickets.

“I know that our public utilities department always takes an education-first approach,” von Wilpert said. “It’s not heavy-handed. If we see you watering your lawn 48 hours after it rains, you get a fine. You get an education and multiple chances at education.”

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