Politics & Government

New statewide water waste prohibitions take effect

It is now illegal for any Californian to hose down a driveway or sidewalk, or allow landscape irrigation to flood off their property.

These and other new regulations were approved July 15 by the State Water Resources Control Board in response to the ongoing drought in California. They formally took effect Tuesday after passing a legal review by the state Office of Administrative Law.

The new regulations also forbid using a hose to wash a vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shutoff nozzle; and operating a decorative fountain, unless the water recirculates. The regulations apply to both residents and business owners, and will remain in force for 270 days, unless renewed.

Although many local water agencies already have such prohibitions in effect, they are not universal.

In addition, acts of water waste can now be prosecuted as a criminal infraction, subject to fines of $500 per day. And all large local water agencies are now required to activate their water waste contingency plans, if they have one, to limit outdoor landscape watering, which accounts for 50 percent or more of most urban water consumption. If agencies do not have such a plan, they are required to restrict outdoor watering to no more than two days per week.

George Kostyrko, a spokesman for the state water board, said his agency will be monitoring local water agencies to ensure they comply. The public should report individuals violations they observe to the local water agency responsible for serving the particular area. Water waste at state government facilities can be reported online at: http://saveourh2o.org/report-water-waste.

“We are focusing on water agency actions first and foremost, which will leverage the greatest action to decrease, or conserve water use,” Kostyrko said via email.

The state board adopted the regulations after gathering data from 267 local water agencies throughout the state. The data showed that relatively few agencies had already adopted mandatory water-use restrictions. Most had only voluntary restrictions in place. It also revealed that total water consumption statewide actually increased by 1 percent in May, compared to an average of the prior three years.

A subsequent review of the data by The Bee, published Monday, showed that only mandatory watering restrictions were effective at inducing customers to conserve. Water agencies with mandatory limits in force cut their water use by 5 percent in May, whereas those with only voluntary measures saw a 4 percent increase in water consumption.

Only 61 percent of water agencies bothered to respond to the state’s request for data. As a result, the water board will now require all large water agencies in California to begin submitting water consumption data on a monthly basis, starting Aug. 15.

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