Wednesday, 30 July 2014

California adopts $500 criminal penalty for water waste

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2014 - 5:11 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2014 - 3:27 pm
It will now be considered a criminal act to waste water in California.
On Tuesday, amid evidence that existing conservation measures are not working, the State Water Resources Control Board took the unprecedented step of declaring certain types of water waste a criminal infraction similar to a speeding violation. Water use deemed excessive – such as allowing landscape watering to spill into streets, and hosing off sidewalks and driveways – can be subject to fines of $500 per day.
Californians as a whole have failed to conserve water during the worst drought in a generation, according to data reviewed by the board at its meeting Tuesday in Sacramento.
Residential and business water use in California rose 1 percent in May compared to a three-year average of the same month from 2011 to 2013, according to a recent survey of 276 water agencies. Those agencies represent about two-thirds of all urban water users in the state.
That is a long way from the 20 percent conservation target Gov. Jerry Brown set in his emergency drought proclamation in January.
“Not everyone in California realizes how bad this drought is,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. Speaking of the May data, she said, “Folks just didn’t get how bad this is and how bad it could be. We are really in desperate times.”
Officials acknowledge conservation may have improved since May, as the severity of the drought has come to broader public attention and more water agencies adopted conservation measures. Even so, as a result of these findings and the ongoing drought, the water board unanimously adopted mandatory statewide conservation rules that now apply to every municipal water agency in the state.
The temporary emergency rules require all municipal water agencies to ban the following uses of potable water, if they don’t already:

• Direct application of water to wash sidewalks and driveways.

• Landscape irrigation that causes runoff to streets and gutters.

• Washing a motor vehicle using a hose without a shut-off nozzle.

• Using drinkable water in a decorative fountain unless it recirculates the water.

The measure requires water agencies to impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering, according to their existing regulations, if they have not already done so. For agencies that do not have such regulations on their books, the measure requires agencies to limit outdoor watering to two days per week.

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