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Marin Water Officials May Lift Penalties For Too Much Usage After Wet Start To Rainy Season

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) – Water officials are considering lifting penalties for residents who use too much water, now that supply is looking much better for many parts of the Bay Area.

The sights and sounds of abundantly flowing streams, and gushing waterfalls have quickly changed how districts are approaching the New Year.

First for discussion are stiff water usage penalties meant to curb usage during severe drought conditions that persisted for most of 2021.

"By the time they were set to kick in we were out of the immediate drought emergency," Marin Municipal Water District Board member Larry Bragman told KPIX 5.

"Should we be fining people for restrictions put in place two months ago? I don't think so," said Mill Valley resident Eric Rorer.

Even without much rain so far in January, the atmospheric river conditions towards the end of last year have replenished once bone dry reservoirs, now at 95% of capacity.

John, a Mill Valley resident who did not give his last name, told KPIX 5, "They look full now, but that's not going to solve the problem," said another resident.

"We've been given by this atmospheric river a great gift, it's the gift of time. Now that we have supply, we have time," said Bragman.

Penalties for using too much water just kicked in last month in Marin County.

For example, a single-family home with a $950 bill would see more than $600 in penalties, sending the bill north of $1,500. Bills due in February will be a lot less for some customers if water officials get rid of the fines.

"Obviously we have to rethink our water situation at this point for sure," said Mill Valley resident Eric Rorer.

The Marin Municipal Water District said 2020 and 2021 were the driest two consecutive winters in 100 years.

Even with heavy rain this winter refilling reservoirs, some strongly believe penalties should stick for the long term.

"It helps some people but some aren't going to go back no matter what.  They'll pay the fine if they have enough money and it doesn't matter to them," said John.

The long list of restrictions including no outdoor irrigation, which consumes about half of the county's water supply, will remain in effect for now.

Water officials will consider taking those off the table in the near future.

The Marin Municipal Water District board is meeting Tuesday evening.

A vote to repeal penalties would take effect immediately.

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