THE DROUGHT CONSERVATION : Simi Council Rejects Rationing Ordinance as Unenforceable
The Simi Valley City Council has rejected a mandatory water conservation ordinance intended for emergency use only, saying it would be virtually impossible to enforce and would unfairly burden those who already have voluntarily reduced water consumption.
After several members of the city’s Chamber of Commerce expressed opposition to the measure, the council directed staff members to re-draft the ordinance.
Council members also asked staff to schedule community workshops so that residents and business leaders can express their views on the ordinance. The staff is expected to return with an alternative ordinance within the next three months.
Council members said that the ordinance, as it is now written, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.
“This is a nightmare,” Councilman Glen McAdoo said of the ordinance, which would have restricted residential and commercial water use by imposing fines and other penalties on those who fail to comply.
“Who’s going to enforce it?” McAdoo asked. He and the four other council members said the city has neither the manpower nor the money to ensure that the law is followed.
Lloyd Boland, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said some of the penalties suggested in the current ordinance would force some businesses to close.
If a business repeatedly failed to comply with the ordinance, the city would have had the power to install flow-restriction devices to plumbing fixtures that would reduce the flow of water to one gallon a minute, he noted.
“One gallon per minute is not realistic,” Boland said.
Boland said that higher fines would be more appropriate. Under the proposed ordinance, a business failing to comply with the law would have been fined $18.
Boland echoed the sentiment of council members that many who already have taken steps to reduce water consumption would have been unfairly penalized by a mandatory requirement that they cut back even more.
So far, Ventura is the only city in the county to implement a mandatory water conservation ordinance. Adopted in March, the ordinance limits single-family residences to 296 gallons of water a day. Apartments, condominiums, townhouses and mobile homes are limited to 196 gallons a day.
The law also requires businesses to cut back water use by 15% to 20% and has set a moratorium on hookups for new construction.
Ron Coons, director of Simi Valley’s Public Works Department, said that the city’s mandatory water conservation ordinance was modeled after one recommended by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Coons said the district, which supplies water to areas in the east county, is urging all customers to adopt water-saving ordinances so that they will be prepared if water-supply cuts become necessary.
Coons said the ordinance would have been implemented in three phases as conditions worsened, with each phase requiring a public hearing before it could take effect.
The ordinance calls for the first phase to be instituted if the City Council and officials of the Calleguas Municipal Water District determine that the city would suffer a 10% reduction in its water supply because of severe statewide shortages. Calleguas, which serves Simi Valley, receives its water from the MWD. Residents would also be prohibited from watering lawns between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., with watering only allowed every other day.
Under the second phase of the ordinance, customers would be required to reduce water use by 10%. Restrictions would have included prohibiting the watering of lawns between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and would be limited to every third day.
Phase three of the ordinance would mandate a 20% reduction in water use by residents, plus other restrictions.