If you’re caught wasting water in California, the most you can be fined right now is $500
a day. Governor Jerry Brown wants to raise the maximum penalty 20 times that amount – to $10,000 per water violation.
He also wants to give cities, counties and water agencies the authority to issue fines without going through the courts.
“I don’t like to increase penalties too much,” Brown told reporters after meeting with mayors Tuesday at the state Capitol. “But they have to be appropriate. And I think this is what – we’re finding that we needed some more, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The governor is also directing state agencies to expedite their environmental reviews of local water projects.
“We’re pushing the law,” Brown said. “Put it this way: We’re pushing as far as we can within the confines of the legal structure.”
That, he can do on his own. The water penalty proposal will require legislative approval. Lawmakers approved his previous drought proposal within a week. This time, the governor’s office says it’ll likely wait for the state budget, which won’t be voted on until mid-June.
Legislative responses to the governor's proposals:
“California cannot fine our way to a water supply.... California has not built water storage in over 40 years. It’s time to stop with the Band-Aid fixes and streamline water storage projects so we can capture water in wet years and prevent water crises for future generations.”
- Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen
“It’s clear local governments need additional enforcement tools to help them to further increase conservation and to crack down on water wasters, and the Governor’s announcement helps provide those tools. Given the emergency we’re in, I look forward to working with my colleagues, the Governor and local leaders as we examine the details of specific proposals and how those projects might be facilitated.”
- Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins
“There is no question that California is facing a drought crisis and it’s incumbent on all Californians to be responsible with how they use water. Senate Republicans understand the need for temporary measures to conserve the supply of water we have left. Yet at the same time we call on this Governor to prepare for the future by supporting the new storage projects Californians so desperately need.”
- Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff
Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León's office declined comment Tuesday.