California imposes first round of $61,000 fines against ‘water hogs’ in drought

Posted at 3:33 PM, Oct 31, 2015
By Michael Martinez and Cheri Mossburg


LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Officials battling the historic California drought have issued their first round of $500-a-day fines against four communities for being water hogs the past several months.

The four communities have accumulated fines of $61,000 each, and they are all located in Southern California: Beverly Hills, the city of Indio, the city of Redlands, and the Coachella Valley Water District.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate to conserve water by a statewide average of 25%, the State Water Resources Control Board said the four urban communities “have consistently failed to meet their water conservation goals,” according to an announcement Friday.

“Up and down the state, residents and water suppliers are making the necessary sacrifices needed to help California meet its conservation goals. However, some urban water suppliers simply have not met the requirements laid before them,” Cris Carrigan, director of the Office of Enforcement, said in a statement.

“For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late to achieve their conservation standard,” Carrigan added.

To achieve the 25% reduction statewide, emergency regulations assign each urban water district a figure between 4% and 36%, with the higher numbers assigned to those communities that use a lot of water.

Beverly Hills will impose its own penalties on water wasters and hire more staff to address water violations, officials said in a statement.

Beverly Hills city officials are “very concerned about not meeting the 32% (conservation) goal set by the state” and added that some of their water-saving program began just as penalty surcharges took effect.

The Indio Water Authority is also working towards a 32% reduction goal and is offering a turf removal rebate program to residential and commercial customers, among other conservation measures, officials said in a statement.

“While we are disappointed with today’s action, like other water agencies across California, we are concerned about not meeting the 32% goal set by the state. IWA will continue to explore additional programs to help us achieve the reductions we need. So far this year, we have participated in over 100 outreach events in our city. We are committed to conserve” Brian Macy, the authority’s general manager, said in a statement.

Representatives with the other two communities didn’t immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

Overall, Californians reduced their water usage by more than 26% in September, exceeding the 25% mandate, the state agency said.

“Millions of Californians have saved water during the summer months, which are the four most critical months to save water,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said in a statement. “Now, we need to keep it up as best we can, even as we hope for as much rain and snow as we can safely handle. We’re in the position of having to prepare for drought and flooding at the same time, but that’s what we’re faced with.”

California is in its fourth year of one of the most severe droughts on record. In May, the state water board imposed an emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25% reduction in overall potable urban water use, with a sliding scale for communities that have already reduced their water use through past conservation, the agency said.