Is California about to get tough on water wasters?
That's the question after Gov.
Are hefty fines the most effective tool?
Until now, many major cities including Los Angeles have shied away from issuing hefty fines. They argue they are getting strong results with a program that emphasizes educational information and warnings over big penalties.
Los Angeles has cut water use by about 10% since early last year and is on track to comply with Mayor Eric Garcetti's order to slash consumption by 20% by 2017.
Since January 2014, the
Tiered water pricing under assault
Until recently, some water officials believed they had a more effective weapon in their arsenal to force conservation.
Many water agencies around California have adopted tiered water rates that essentially encourage conservation by charging heavy water users at a higher rate than lighter users.
But an appeals court last week threw the legality of this rate structure into question, saying an Orange County water agency's tiered rates were unconstitutional because it didn't show that the higher rates reflected only the cost of providing the water.
Higher fines for water wasters are another option.
"Fines are a tool, and they're the last tool you use," Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of California's Water Resources Control Board said after Brown's announcement.
How one community got tough on water wasters
One possible model for the get-tough approach is Santa Cruz. Last summer, the coastal community imposed a strict rationing program. The city issued $1.6 million in water fines in 2014 and gave violators the option to waive their penalties by attending "water school." So many people attended that the city collected only about $800,000 in fines.
The governor's proposal would also empower cities and counties to issue fines. Local governments would be able to enlist staff members to hand out warnings and citations, expanding the ranks of officials prodding Californians to meet conservation targets.
"Only the worst offenders" would face the maximum fines, Brown said.
Source: Times reports