Amid drought, California's Brown wants big fines for wasting water

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 28, 2015 5:48 PM

By Robin Respaut

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Governor Jerry Brown proposed legislation on Tuesday that would impose steep fines for wasting water in drought-parched California.

In a meeting with California mayors, Brown said the legislation would allow wholesale and retail water agencies, along with city and county governments, to issue fines of up to $10,000 per violation. Currently, there is a $500 per day maximum, established in drought legislation last year.

"These measures will strengthen the ability of local officials to build new water projects and ensure that water is not wasted," Brown said in a statement. "As this drought stretches on, we'll continue to do whatever is necessary to help communities save more water."

The changes would speed up enforcement and allow local public agencies to deputize staff to issue warnings and citations. Fines and other monetary penalties would be used for local conservation efforts.

Earlier this month, Brown ordered the first-ever statewide mandatory water reduction of 25 percent.

That plan should be approved in early May, but officials said more fine-tuning could take place before then to help ease cuts for Los Angeles and San Diego, and bump up targets in the areas that consume the most water.

After four years of serious drought, California officials plan to make the state more resilient by replacing lawns with landscaping that needs less water and swapping old appliances for more efficient models.

The state also wants to cut water use at campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscape locations, and to stop watering ornamental grass on public street medians.

The State Water Resources Control Board announced strict limits over the past year on outdoor irrigation, cutting it to two days a week across much of the state. It also banned hosing down outdoor surfaces, decorative water fountains that do not recirculate water, and car washing without an automatic shut-off nozzle.

Bars and restaurants are now required to serve water only upon request, and hotels must ask guests staying multiple nights whether linens and towels should be washed.

(Reporting By Robin Respaut. Editing by Andre Grenon)