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Sacramento Received More Water Waste Complaints Compared To Most Suppliers In California

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Sacramento received 3,100 water waste complaints in the month of April -- the most out of nearly 400 agencies in the state.

Even when taking into account population, Sacramento still ranks high for water complaints in April, according to the Department of Water Resources.

“I think the Sacramento community is more aware of what’s happening. We’ve done a great job of educating the public,” says Rhea Serran, a spokeswoman with the Utilities Department.

She says that focus on education has resulted in a more vigilant public.

“They have been very helpful to let us know what’s happening in their communities and, but we also want to embrace that it’s not just about them letting us know that their neighbor is watering, but they’re educating themselves on ways that they can save water in and out of their home,” she says.

Agency Complaints Received Agency Complaints Per 1,000 People
City of Sacramento 3,100 City of Rio Vista 7.93
Los Angeles Department Of Water And Power 1,875 City of Sacramento 6.46
City of Long Beach 1,766 City of Roseville 5.77
City of Fresno 1,298 Santa Fe Irrigation District 5.49
City of Modesto 941 City of Merced 5.12
City of San Diego 820 City of Ripon 4.62
City of Roseville 710 City of Folsom 4.62
City of Pasadena 437 City of Modesto 4.26
City of Merced 426 City of Long Beach 3.73
San Jose Water Company 385 Pinedale County Water District 3.65
City of Huntington Beach 340 Lodi City of Public Works Department 3.25
City of Glendale 315 City of West Sacramento 3.01
Sacramento County Water Agency 298 City of Chino Hills 2.97
City of Folsom 293 City of Pasadena 2.64
City of Chino Hills 226 City of Newman Water Department 2.53
Lodi City of Public Works Department 207 Laguna Beach County Water District 2.51
San Francisco Public Utilities Commision 194 City of San Luis Obispo 2.51
City of Clovis 191 City of Fresno 2.48
Sacramento Suburban Water District 183 City of La Palma 2.01
Coachella Valley Water District 161 Olivehurst Public Utility District 1.99
California-American Water Company  Sacramento 161 Orange Vale Water Company 1.89
Desert Water AGency 160 Sacramento County Water Agency 1.82
City of Burbank  159 Triunfo Sanitation District / Oak Park Water Service 1.80
City of West Sacramento 153 City of Clovis 1.76
City of San Bernardino 148 Winton Water & Sanitary District 1.76

Residents can report water waste, both commercial and residential, through the city’s 311 number or by sending an e-mail. There’s also a 311 app that allows users to take a picture and notify the city’s conservation specialist on where waste is occurring. The app provides a timestamp. These reports call attention to water runoff or leaks, and residents who are watering at the wrong time.

Serran says the city put in place its water waste reporting system even before Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared the drought last year. In 2013, the department received 1,800 hundred water calls. By 2014, complaints spiked to 19,000.*

“I think that’s great thing, I think it’s that we’re all in this together,” Serran says.

The city has 60 staffers trained to go on water patrols and look for misuse in the community. Serran says the city is looking into adding night patrols as well.

Once a report comes in, Serran says the city’s water conservation team is notified. A conservation specialist is then sent out to check on the report, speak to the business or homeowner and try to resolve the issue. It may take a day or two for the specialist to actually go to the site and he or she must witness the violation.

There’s no penalty for the first violation, but subsequent violations can result in fines between $50 to $1,000 in fines ($1,000 would be for a fourth violation). Those found to be in violation can attend water conservation classes, or “water school,” in order to waive the fine.

Water agencies across the state are required to turn in their enforcement statistics each month. Data include complaints, warnings and penalties handed down. The April numbers were the first to be collected.

A spokesman with the Department of Water Resources say the agency is waiting to collect more data to determine why some cities have higher numbers compared to others.

Sacramento ranks seventh in the state for the highest number of penalties assessed per capita. Sacramento region agencies were also at the top of the list for the most complaints received and penalties handed down.

Yuba City had the most penalties.

The city of Sacramento met its 20 percent conservation goal last year and expect to reach this year’s 28 percent goal. The state is expected to release a new set of numbers for water complaints, warnings and penalties in July.

Agency Penalties Assessed Agency Penalties Assessed Per 1,000
City of Fresno 347 Yuba City 0.87
City of Sacramento 191 City of Fresno 0.67
Yuba City 57 City of Tulare 0.66
City of San Diego 48 City of Madera 0.49
City of Tulare 41 Pinedale County Water District 0.47
City of Madera 31 City of Sacramento 0.40
City of Roseville 18 City of Lemoore 0.40
City of Lemoore 10 City of Kingsburg 0.26
City of Watsonville 10 Lake Arrowhead Community Services 0.18
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power  8 Cambria Community Services District 0.17

Source: California Department of Water Resources

*The number 19,000 refers to complaints received through the 311 app, call center and water patrols.

How many water complaints were reported in your zip code in 2014?

This map shows the raw number of complaints per zip code in the city of Sacramento for 2014. The complaints, however, only show reports made through the city's 311 app and call center. The total number of complaints through the 311 app and call center for 2014 was 13,284.

Source: City of Sacramento, Utilities Department

GIS Consultant: Mario Federis