California is enacting tough water restrictions after voluntary conservation efforts failed to work. But the restrictions won’t be uniformly enforced. Some communities already have strict local penalties in place. Others are just beginning to implement water shortage plans. In some cities a police officer may fine you for wasting water, in others water department employees might cite you.
The State Water Resources Control Board is leaving it to local agencies to implement the state-wide restrictions. In the City of Roseville, Water Efficiency Administrator Lisa Brown says you won’t get a ticket from a cop.
“We do have a fining structure in place currently, but it is a civil process rather than a criminal process," she says. "And the distinction there is that that enables our current water efficiency staff to go out and issue water waste notices.”
Brown says fines are rarely imposed because people usually change their behavior after a warning.
In Anaheim, the water department’s Don Calkins says conservation has been voluntary for several years. But that may be changing.
“We are analyzing the State Water Resources Board’s actions right now," he says. "And my intent is to take something to our city council, if we can, at the next meeting.”
Calkins says he doesn’t know if fines are in Anaheim’s future. He says in previous droughts education has brought behavior change.
The city of Santa Cruz has had the new state-wide restrictions in place locally for three years. The city’s Eileen Cross says Santa Cruz relies solely on local rain water for its supply, which has lead to some drastic measures.
“We’re in the third year of a very dry cycle," she says. "So we implemented rationing May first for all of our water customers.”
The new state rules allow agencies to fine people up to $500 a day for wasting water. In turn agencies can be fined $10,000 a day if they don’t implement conservation plans.