Q&A: Drought-plagued California gets tough on water wasters: Will it help?

<p>California regulators may give local agencies power to fine water-wasters $500 a day as the state continues to face “extreme” drought conditions.</p>

California water officials on Tuesday approved a $500 fine to be imposed on water wasters and other measure to improve water conservation during the drought.

Here are some answers to questions about Tuesday’s action:

So how is California doing in terms of water conservation?


Californians in general have fallen far short of meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s January call for a 20% cut in water use. Updated results of a state board survey show that statewide, urban water use in May increased 1% compared to the May average of the previous three years. That rise was mostly driven by an 8% jump in coastal Southern California. In most other hydrologic regions, May use declined. The biggest drop was in the Sacramento River area, where it fell 13%.

So what are the new rules?

Saying that it was time to increase conservation in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted drought regulations that give local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day. Many Southern California cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Long Beach, already have mandatory restrictions in place.

How will I be affected?

The emergency rules, expected to take effect Aug. 1, don’t order cities to slash water use by a certain amount. Rather they direct agencies to — at a minimum — ban wasteful practices such as allowing runoff from outdoor sprinklers, hosing down driveways and sidewalks and using drinking water in ornamental fountains that don’t recirculate.

“It’s not going to be a huge change from what we already have,” said Kevin Pearson, media relations officer of the Eastern Municipal Water District, which has voluntary measures in place for the 768,000 people it serves in western Riverside County.

What is going on in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles, which since 2009 has limited outdoor watering to three days a week, is stepping up enforcement of its conservation ordinance and also recently boosted its cash-for-grass rebate to $3 a square foot. The watering limits would be primarily enforced by local government and water districts, which are expected to issue warnings and fines that escalate with repeat offenses.