Drought Fines for Water Hogs

Up to $500 in proposed outdoor water use restrictions.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - When Governor Brown urged all Californians to voluntarily reduce water use earlier this year amid what some are calling the worst drought in state history, he was hoping for a 20 percent reduction.

Since then coastal communities have reduced water use by only 5 percent and some, larger urban areas like L.A. and San Diego have increased use by up to 4 percent.

"I just wouldn't want to come home to dry grass", says Santa Maria resident Nancy Rust who says you can't judge a water user by how green their front lawn is.

"I don't water that much", Rust says about her sprinklers, "I only water about three minutes a day to just keep it green, everybody I know has a bigger water bill than I do."

Amid what one NASA earth scientist calls the "worst drought since record-keeping began in the late-1800's", the state has proposed emergency water regulations that would restrict outdoor water usage.

The Associated Press says a draft of the unprecedented statewide restrictions will be reviewed next week by the California Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento.

The proposed regulations would prohibit landscape watering that causes runoff onto sidewalks or streets, washing down sidewalks, driveways or other hard surfaces, using a hose to wash a vehicle unless it has a shut-off nozzle and using drinking water in a fountain without re-circulation.

Violators could be fined up to $500 a day.

Urban water agencies would be subject to daily fines of up to $10,000 for not implementing water-shortage contingency plans, which restrict how many days a week residents can engage in outdoor watering, among other limits on their customers.

A state Water Resources Control Board spokesperson says the proposed regulations for residents and urban water agencies are subject to public comment and regulators will vote on July 15.

If passed, they would take effect in August and remain in place for nine months with the possibility of being extended. How the restrictions would be enforced and fines levied is part of the public review process, the spokesperson says.

While having a brown lawn may be politically correct during these historic drought times, others have chosen to embrace the notion of drought resistant landscaping.

"Even 18 years ago people were starting to talk about things like this", says Lillian McKay of Santa Maria

McKay says neighbors have complimented her on her drought tolerant front yard.

"Now its really serious", McKay says about the drought in California, "I was reading  that we're only down five percent of water use, they were hoping for a voluntary 20 percent and they are not even close, I'm surprised that haven't put it into mandatory right now, I mean we are so bad off right now you would think that's what they would do."

Amy Yamate of Santa Maria says she can see "water cops" writing tickets for people wasting water on the sidewalk.

"I wouldn't be surprised, probably, its getting that severe", Yamate says.

"Well they can", adds Nancy Rust, "but I'm sure their water bill is higher than mine."

Cambria and Montecito are among a growing list of local communities that have strict landscape irrigation restrictions in place with steep fines for violators.

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