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Fines Now Possible for California Water Wasters

Jul 15, 2014

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Credit Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A state agency took a major step to encourage water conservation Tuesday. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, it voted to allow large fines for wasting water.

The State Water Resources Control Board has adopted emergency regulations that allow local water agencies to levy fines up to $500 a day for people who waste water outdoors. Board Chair Felicia Marcus says collecting money isn’t the goal. Convincing urban water users to conserve is.

Marcus: “There are communities that are running out of water and are having lines from other communities sent to them.  They’re bathing out of buckets. They’re having water trucks go to them. The state is helping with that, as well as their neighbors. But many parts of California don’t seem to realize how bad the drought is, in part because they are so far away from their source of water.”

Implementation of the state's rules will generally being left to local agencies, many of which already have water shortage plans. But the regulations also left a lot of questions, some asked by Charles Gibson with the Santa Margarita Water District.

Gibson: “Will this change the way we’ve always worked with our customers so effectively? And this concerns us. So we want to know, is this the policeman running out and enforcing this or is it the district primarily? And do our people have the authority to issue warnings instead of these fines right away? And if we don’t issue a fine right away and the board is looking over our shoulder is there a $10,000 fine a day to us because we didn’t do our job?”

The board stressed local agencies would be able to use existing plans to meet the regulations and offered guidance to districts with no water shortage plans. The emergency regulations will go into effect on or around August 1 and will initially be in effect for 270 days.