[CN] – California water suppliers can begin warning and fining residential users for excessive water use during drought emergencies under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
California’s more than 400 urban water suppliers will be tasked with creating a scheme that identifies water-guzzling water homeowners drought emergencies as well as implementing a system to hand out warnings and potential fines.
Senate Bill 814 takes effect Jan. 1 and gives suppliers the authority to create new rate structures for high-volume water offenders. The law also authorizes fines of $500 per each 748 gallons used above the district’s maximum threshold.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said the bill gives water suppliers a powerful tool in preventing and curbing unnecessary water wasting in neighborhoods.
“Households that guzzle water — while their neighbors and most other Californians abide by mandatory reductions — will no longer be able to hide and persist in their excess,” Hill said in a statement.
Hill said the idea came from a San Mateo resident who was outraged at news reports of California households using millions of gallons of water a year, despite statewide drought restrictions. One household used over 12 million gallons, according to Hill.
Meanwhile, the average American family of four uses an estimated 146,000 gallons per year according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
California is trudging through its fifth consecutive year of drought. Nearly 60 percent of the Golden State is experiencing severe drought, including major portions of the Central Valley and Southern California.
The drought caused Brown to issue the state’s first ever mandatory water restrictions in 2015, and cities scrambled to comply with stringent 25 percent reduction targets.
Hill’s proposal differs from other drought orders in that it specifically targets residential users and forces districts to supervise household use. Water suppliers will be authorized to perform site audits on homes suspected of wasting water and will have the means to collect on unpaid fines.
“This legislation ensures that every urban retail water supplier has a tool to curb excessive water use by customers,” Hill said.
The bill was passed largely along party lines, with a batch of Republicans voting against it in the Assembly and Senate. Despite their opposition, Republicans declined to discuss the bill during floor sessions in both chambers.
A host of water districts, including the San Diego County Water Authority and the Placer County Water Agency, opposed the bill. The water districts argued that since California’s drought orders were recently relaxed SB 814 creates an unnecessary mandate.
The monitoring requirements are only effect when state or local authorities issue a drought emergency order.
Despite the ongoing drought conditions in the Golden State, Brown’s 2015 emergency order was lifted earlier this year and most districts have dropped the water restrictions.