California fines 4 water agencies $61K for waste

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Beverly Hills Is Fined for Using Too Much Water in Drought.

But state regulators for the first time slapped $61,000 fines on four water suppliers, including the city of Beverly Hills, for failing to do their part in the historic drought. “Up and down the state, residents and water suppliers are making the necessary sacrifices needed to help California meet its conservation goals. Beverly Hills is in hot water, facing a hefty fine and public shaming for not conserving as much water as drought-stricken California standards require. Some urban water suppliers, however, simply have not met the requirements laid before them,” said Cris Carrigan, director of the Office of Enforcement for the State Water Resources Control Board. “For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late to achieve their conservation standard.” The hefty fines against Beverly Hills, Indio, Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District mark a new phase in the mandatory conservation effort, which requires communities cut water use by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels. Carrigan also said he was “sure” there were other residents being “very conscientious and doing their part.” It’s unclear how Beverly Hills will pay the $61,000 fine.

Now, Beverly Hills has become one of the first places in California to be slapped with fines for using too much water during the state’s devastating drought. Mr Carrigan said if the cities failed to cut back on water usage, the fines — which amount to $US500 a day — could be ramped up to $US10,000 a day.

Collectively, they’ve “wasted” about 2.3 billion gallons of water since June by not hitting their conservation numbers, he added, including about 1.4 billion gallons at Coachella Valley. Districts that are the heaviest users must cut the most under the plan, which set targets of 8 percent to 36 percent to reach the statewide goal of 25 percent. A recent University of California Los Angeles study stated on average wealthier neighbourhoods consumed three times more water than less affluent ones.

As for Beverly Hills, he said he believes many residents of the iconic Los Angeles suburb are saving water but that the others “should be ashamed of yourselves.” The fines amount to $500 a day since June 1, the maximum allowed under the state’s statutes, for each district. One former Beverly Hills resident, Richard Greene, said the fine was far too small for what he said was possibly the richest city in the country, if not the world. “Wow, ouch … That’s no thanks to Beverly Hills dwellers, who on average used 169 gallons each in September, compared to 68 gallons for each Los Angeles resident that month.

Beverly Hills officials said in a statement the city was striving to meet its water conservation goals and penalty surcharges had come into effect in October. “As such, the city is committed to continuing the outreach and implementing additional programs, such as new penalty surcharges, hiring additional staff to address water violations and developing individualised conservation programs that will help us achieve reductions we need.” If their conservation efforts don’t improve in the coming months, Carrigan said, the state could issue cease-and-desist orders and ramp up the penalties to $10,000 a day if those orders are violated. George Murdoch, the municipal operations director, said the city has distributed educational material but is now taking more significant enforcement steps. It actually seems to minimize the importance of water conservation when you’re fining the wealthiest municipality $61,000, which is pocket change for most of the people you see walking up and down this street,” Greene said. From June through September, urban areas used 28.1% less water than they did during the same months in 2013 — well above Brown’s statewide mandate, which requires an overall 25% reduction from June through February.

Five valley water agencies have higher targets than the statewide 25% goal because per-capita water use is so high in the desert. “We want to work with these entities that have received these fines to get them to do better,” Carrigan said. “We don’t want the fine money. Marcus said heavy rain in Southern California would have little impact on the Sierra Nevada snowpack that is so critical to the state’s water supply. “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,” she said. “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.” Regulators urged continued conservation even if the El Nino weather phenomenon brings winter storms, because the rain may not fall far enough to the north to replenish vital mountain snowpack that melts in the spring to feed the state’s streams and reservoirs. Yeah, definitely, but I think we’re in the ballpark.” The four agencies fined by the state Friday have been assigned relatively high conservation mandates – and haven’t come close to meeting them since June.

Redlands is missing its 36 percent conservation target by 11 percentage points, and Coachella Valley is 9 percentage points short of its mandate for a 36 percent cut. He is seeking federal resources to assist with the removal of dead trees. “California is facing the worst epidemic of tree mortality in its modern history,” Mr. The state hadn’t contacted the city about its record since June, when Redlands officials were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the city’s conservation efforts, he said. Statewide, nearly one-third of the largest water agencies are not meeting cumulative water conservation targets, including four in the Sacramento region. It will be tough for them to make up ground during the winter. “We expressed this concern to the state board early on: As you move into September, October and November, it is going to be difficult meeting the conservation targets,” said Marcus Yasutake, Folsom’s environmental and water resources director. “You don’t have the same opportunity for the outdoor savings.” Folsom recently sent a mailer to its customers telling them about missing September targets and offering suggestions on how they can do more to conserve, Yasutake said.

He said warm weather and resulting outdoor irrigation in Folsom was largely to blame for the lackluster September results. “I don’t attribute this to water waste by our customers by any means,” he said. Peter Brostrom, program manager for water use efficiency at the Department of Water Resources, said there are several steps Californians can take to cut their indoor water use this fall and winter. “If you look at kind of what are the big uses of water in the house, toilets are about 20 percent statewide,” Brostrom said. “Clothes washers are about 20 percent, and showers are about 20 percent. He also suggested replacing old clothes washers, flushing only when there is solid waste and taking shorter “Navy showers,” which involve turning the water off while applying soap and shampoo. “That alone can save a significant amount of water,” he said. “But probably the cheapest thing to do is to change out the aerators, especially in bathroom faucets.

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