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Water Restriction Enforcement – Rare, Even in California’s Record-Breaking Drought

By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

Much of California is still in an “extreme” or even “exceptional” state of drought, the highest designation offered by the federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor. So communities are cracking down on water wasters, right? Demanding that residents take shorter showers and stop watering their lawns?

Not exactly.

Up and down the state, water agencies use words like “emergency,” “critical” and “dire” but make only modest requests of their customers.  The past few months have seen some progressive water conservation measures put into place but can these measures be enforced?  Hopefully YES because there’s no place in California that should think they have enough water that wasteful or inefficient use can be condoned.

Limited state budgets allow for very few to No ‘Water Cop’ to Enforce Restrictions

A map maintained by the Association of California Water Agencies shows several towns which have imposed mandatory restrictions on water for customers in their service area.  But few of these restrictions are enforced, or even enforceable, and water managers concede they’re relying on the honor system to ensure that customers actually cut back.

For example, in towns served by the Alameda County Water District, homeowners are now prohibited from watering their lawns more than once a week. Hosing down sidewalks and re-filling pools are prohibited entirely.

But customers who break the rules will probably get away with it.

Few, if any, towns have the resources to hire teams of enforcement agents, so must rely on citizen complaints, followed up by site visits from department staff. District officials can’t issue tickets unless they see the violation in progress. In towns where water use is metered, one way to lean on water hogs is through monthly water bills, levying a penalty on customers who exceed a monthly allotment.

But despite one of the worst droughts in recorded history, many state residents say it’s not yet time for such measures. Water rationing gets customers “a lot more worked up.”

Even if the rains return,  water resources are finite. Over time, the pressures of population growth and climate change will only further squeeze water districts trying to supply their customers.

The truth is there’s no place in California that should think they have enough water that wasteful or inefficient use can be condoned, or accepted.

 



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