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Californians Could Soon Be Fined For Using Too Much Water

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - The California State Water Resources Control Board could begin imposing fines in the near future for California residents who fail to conserve water. The move comes in light of historically hot and dry weather in the months of November and December.

Extreme Drought Drops Reservoir Water Levels
OROVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 1: Lake Oroville, California's second largest water reservoir (2,359,720 acre-feet) fed by the Feather River, is at 23% capacity and at historically low levels impacting hydroelectric power, tourism and agriculture as viewed on September 1, 2021, near Oroville, California. Lake Oroville is a key source for collecting and delivering large amounts of water through the Central Valley and into the Sacramento River Delta where the California State Water Project (aka California Aqueduct) begins, moving water to Southern California and all regions in between. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

The State Water Board released a draft on November 30 to propose fines of up to $500 for residents who waste water.The fines would reportedly incur daily for repeat offenders. Should the propositions be approved, they would begin in January 2022.

They would however be up to the discretion of cities and local water agencies.

A list of the proposed fines includes:

  • excessive sprinkler runoff
  • hosing off the driveway
  • watering lawns within 48-hours of rain
  • washing cars without a shutoff nozzle
  • use of water in ponds/fountains that do not recirculate

This news comes just months after Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency declaration. The Newsom administration reports that Californians have failed to conserve water at a 15% rate compared to 2020, actually conserving just about 5% of that total.

"I feel like if we'd just do our part as a community, we'd be fine," said Azusa resident Kenia Duenas.

These emergency water restrictions, very similar to those implemented in 2014 - the last time California was exposed to such extreme drought conditions, would also expire after nine months and only occur on an emergency basis.

According to The Mercury News, the Department of Water Resources attempted to make the 2014 changes permanent in 2018 as well, getting shut down by local water agencies who stated the move would violate their water rights.

The water board is prepared to take public comment on these proposed changes on December 23, with a vote set to take place on January 4.

For California residents like Toby Pruett, from Azusa, this is an overreach from the government, "I don't think people really care what the governor or anyone else says right now," he said. "They've over-stepped on so many things. It's like really, now you're gonna come up with a $500 fine for the drought?"

On November 10, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California issued a regional drought emergency as water supply numbers continue to dwindle closer to zero. Los Angeles County has had a large list of water restrictions since 2009, but additional measures could be necessary if things continued on the current trend.

The Daily Reservoir Storage Summary from the California Date Exchange Center portion of the Department of Water Resources website shows that of California's ten largest reservoirs, seven have less than 40 percent of their storage capacity reserved, and all but one have less than 50%.

More information on the proposed emergency regulations can be found here.

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