Sprinklers water a lawn Tuesday morning, July 15, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif.
If you live in California, you will soon be subject to a $500-per-day fine for washing down your driveway and sidewalk, watering your outdoor landscapes, or turning on your outdoor fountain (unless the water is recirculated).
The state is in one of its worst droughts on record, with no end in sight. The California Water Resources Control Board thinks that many residents aren't taking the water scarcity problem seriously enough, so it stepped in on Tuesday afternoon with an unprecedented emergency regulation to crack down on excessive outdoor water users; local officials would be given leeway under the rule to determine details of its enforcement.
The rule will stay in effect for 270 days, and could be extended even further. It targets the habit of most Californians to use more water outdoors than indoors.
the drought is causing the largest water loss in the state's historythe drought is causing the largest water loss in the state's history, and is forcing farmers to suck an increasing amount of groundwater to keep their fields irrigated.
The study found the drought will cost the state $2.2 billion in agricultural impacts alone. The board estimates the restrictions, which take effect in early August, could save enough water statewide to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year.
According to the Water Resources Control Board, local agencies could ask courts to fine water users up to $500 a day "for failure to implement conservation requirements." The State Water Board could initiate enforcement actions against water agencies that don’t comply with the new regulations. Failure to comply with a State Water Board enforcement order by water agencies is subject to up to a $10,000-per-day penalty.
“We are facing the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus.
In a statement released after the meeting, Marcus said the uncertainty about future state rainfall helped convince her that the Board needed to act.
And, more important, we have no idea when it will end. This drought’s impacts are being felt by communities all over California. Fields are fallowed; communities are running out of water, fish and wildlife will be devastated. The least that urban Californians can do is to not waste water on outdoor uses. It is in their self-interest to conserve more, now, to avoid far more harsh restrictions, if the drought lasts into the future. These regulations are meant to spark awareness of the seriousness of the situation, and could be expanded if the drought wears on and people do not act.
Governor Jerry Brown has set a goal for Californians to reduce their collective water use by 20%, but no region of the state has yet met that goal. This is one of the reasons why the Water Board acted on Tuesday.
Cities and water districts were given wide latitude on how the fines will be implemented. The full $500-a-day fine, considered an infraction, could be reserved for repeat violators, for example. Others might receive warnings or smaller fines based on a sliding scale.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.
Tags: CALIFORNIA DROUGHT, CALIFORNIA WATER, CLIMATE, U.S., US & World, WATER FINES