Water & Drought

What does ‘mandatory water restrictions’ mean?

Q: What does ‘mandatory water restrictions’ mean? – Bonnie Bahnsen, Sacramento

A. In the face of our current drought, “mandatory” can mean different things in different water districts. That makes this simple question a little complicated to answer.

Currently, Sacramento residents and businesses are under a mandatory order to cut water use by 20 percent. In Placer County, the San Juan Water District is requiring customers to cut back 25 percent. Find out what restrictions your water district has in place at the Regional Water Authority’s http://www.bewatersmart.info website.

By definition, mandatory means you could face repercussions if you don’t comply. But how do officials know if you broke those water rules?

In Sacramento, the meaning of mandatory can be a touchy subject. Only about half the homes in the city are connected to water meters. City officials have said they will not use meters to track consumption and penalize metered homeowners and businesses that do not cut water use by 20 percent.

“It’s not our intent to treat those with meters differently than those without,” Dave Brent, the director of the city’s Department of Utilities, said in January.

Instead, Brent said the city would increase its efforts to enforce outdoor winter watering restrictions that prohibit landscape irrigation during weekdays. The city also will enforce regulations that prohibit the use of water to wash sidewalks and driveways, require parks and cemeteries to reduce watering, and require residents washing automobiles at home to use buckets or automatic shut-off nozzles.

Repeat offenders could face fines up to $1,000. But that top-level fine comes after several warnings and lesser fines.

On Sunday, March 9, Sacramento switches to its spring-summer watering schedule but with two – rather than three – irrigation days per week. Residents with even-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays and Sundays; odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The restrictions are deemed mandatory, but Sacramento residents are pretty much on the honor system for compliance. Residents can report water wasters by calling “311” (the city hotline) or (916) 264-5011. If alleging a violation, make sure to give an exact address, date and time of day, so inspectors can follow up.

Other cities and water districts also are on the lookout for water wasters. Contact your local water agency for more details or to report a potential violation.

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.