California’s determination to overcome its 3-year drought has led to larger forces of “water cops,” and neighborhood snitches and smartphone apps to catch and punish water wasters. Strong regulation enforcement and the use of informants seem to be working, at least as of August 2014.
Earlier in 2014, California relied on volunteerism and community spirit to combat the drought. We all know how well that worked: water consumption rose 1% statewide for May 2014 vs. May 2013. Consequently, on July 15, 2014, California’s State Water Resources Control Board voted 4-0 to prohibit outdoor watering to the point of visible water runoff, hosing driveways and asphalt and operating fountains that do not recirculate water. Effective August 1, 2014, the new regulations also imposed fines of up to $500/day for wasting water. The state’s cities and 9 water districts were given leeway to enact even stricter regulations and the imposition of fines.
Sacramento employs approximately six “water cops” who answer and investigate complaint calls from residents about water wasters and patrol city streets looking for water wasters. In addition to checking out complaints, the officers look for telltale signs like lush green lawns and sprinklers. Sacramento’s first offenders receive a warning, second offenders must attend a meeting about saving water and third offenders are fined up to $500. Sacramento’s approach is apparently working, as water consumption in the City fell 25% in August 2014 vs. August 2013.
Los Angeles increased its “water cop” force from 1 full-time officer after the 2009 statewide drought to 4 in summer 2014. The City received 4,400 complaints about water wasters, 2,200 of whom received citations. As in all other cities investigating neighbor complaints, warnings, citations, reeducation and fines require definite proof through photographs and reports.
Long Beach went high-tech, supplying a smart phone app that allowed easy reporting of water wasting neighbors and businesses.
The cumulative efforts have paid off statewide: water consumption decreased by more than 11% in August 2014 vs. August 2013. Even as Californians support the tougher water restrictions, many hope for more than the usual amount of rain this winter.
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