California considering new restrictions and $500 fines for wasteful water use

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- As California enters the second year of an extreme drought, the state is considering even more restrictions on water use as well as the potential for $500 fines for violations.

The new rules, which could be approved as soon as early January, include restrictions on watering within 48 hours of storms that produce more than 1.4 inches of rain; restrictions on sidewalks, driveways or other hard surfaces; restrictions on allowing water runoff onto adjacent property; and restrictions on using potable water on street medians and other publicly owned spaces.

It would be up to individual cities, counties or local water agencies to enforce those rules and implement the $500 fines for those deemed to be wasteful.

But some water agencies like Western Municipal Water District in Riverside County already have the authority to implement fines and have chosen not to issue those penalties to customers in recent droughts.

"As far as fines go, Western Municipal has a tool of a fine that we could use if it actually came to that," said general manager Craig Miller. "But in past droughts we've had the same tool and we never implemented it."

Western Municipal Water District has implemented monthly water budgets for customers based on the size of their property, as well as the number of people who live there. Miller said fines haven't been necessary, because customers who use excess water will already be paying higher rates because of wasteful or unsustainable water use.

Miller said so far in 2021, his customers in western Riverside County have reduced water use by about 19%, which is more than what Gov. Gavin Newsom called for in March when he announced his goal for a 15% reduction in water use.

But statewide conservation has lagged, with savings of only about 6% since July compared with the same time period in 2020.

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