Oan historic “first” that allocates the drought burden beyond farmers and agencies to individuals and communities.
Water usage prohibited as wasteful includes: watering outdoor landscapes in a way that causes water runoff onto neighboring properties, non-irrigated areas, walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures; washing an automobile with a hose that lacks a shut-off nozzle or other device that immediately stops the water when not in use; watering any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks and asphalt; and use of drinkable water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, except in a recirculating system. Exceptions are made for immediate health and safety needs or compliance with a term/condition in a state/federal permit.
The imposition of fines came after disturbing statewide survey results. In 2014, California’s Governor declared and then continued a state of emergency due to a 3-year drought that is the harshest California drought in 40 years. The Governor took several measures to address the emergency, including increasing the power of California’s State Water Resources Control Board and requesting that Californians reduce their individual use of water by 20%. Californians apparently took neither the drought nor the Governor’s request seriously enough. The Board’s most recent survey revealed that none of the state’s nine water regions, (North Coast, San Francisco, Central Coast, Los Angeles, Central Valley, Lahontan, Colorado River, Santa Ana and San Diego), attained the requested 20% reduction in individual water usage. In fact, the State’s consumption of water in May 2014 increased 1% over consumption in May of prior years.
Given the belief that drought conditions will continue for the foreseeable future, the Board is adopting a somewhat flexible approach. Considerable leeway is given to the cities and water districts that must impose the $500 daily fine: they could issue warnings and impose the fine on repeat offenders or could use a sliding scale to impose fines of up to $500, for some examples. Simultaneously, the Board will monitor the effectiveness of this latest measure. If the fine fails to adequately encourage water conservation, the Board will examine and may use tougher measures, such as tightening outdoor watering restrictions and advocating higher water rates for unusually high water usage.
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