Newport readies water-use rules, education for residents, gardeners

As the Newport Beach City Council prepares to enact citywide water conservation requirements, city staff members plan to amp up their public education efforts.

In doing so, they will focus on more than letting residents know about the new rules. After all, in Newport Beach, it's not always the resident out tending the garden.

"A lot of times, it's the gardener," Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said during a council study session Tuesday. "You never see the owner."

The city already maintains a web page with water conservation information. But Gardner suggested that city staff also develop a flier that could be downloaded and printed from the site, as was done when the city banned gas-powered leaf blowers in 2011.

Residents could politely give such a flier to any violators, including hired hands, she said.

"I think that would be something very useful for all of us to have," she said.

The leaf blower flier was written in both English and Spanish. It discussed when the ban went into effect, the penalty for using a gas-powered leaf blower and where more information could be found.

A brochure also would be helpful for city staff to pass out, said George Murdoch, utilities general manager.

"Without confronting the customer, we could inform them and educate them," he said.

Rules on the way

In light of state regulations adopted in July, the council voted during its regular meeting Tuesday night to declare an intention to enact a "Level 1" conservation phase.

The phase would limit outdoor irrigation to four scheduled days a week from April through October and two scheduled days a week from November through March. The rule would not apply to food crops such as fruit trees and vegetable gardens, according to a staff report. Vegetation also may be watered anytime using a handheld bucket.

With some exceptions, residents would be expected to use no more than the average amount of water they have used during the past three years.

A public hearing on the topic will be held Sept. 9. At that time, the council will discuss implementation methods, how long to give violation warnings before issuing citations and whether an increase in staffing will be needed to enforce the rules.

The state gave cities the authority to impose fines of up to $500 for causing runoff, using a hose without a shutoff device, spraying water on a driveway or sidewalk and using fountains without a recirculating system, Murdoch said. All pertain to potable water.

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