Wasting water in California during severe drought alert can become expensive. State Senator Jerry Hill, , D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, is proposing a law as a part of nine bills, that would define excessive water use and charge violators, at least, $500 if they use more water than established as acceptable. Senate Bill 814 is the result of a San Mateo residents call for a crackdown on excessive water wasters.
There are 411 urban water districts in California, and they put their conservation measures that vary greatly. Targets range from 4 to 36 percent statewide. Currently, only one water district in California imposes penalties on households. In May 2015, residents of Santa Fe Irrigation District, the highest tier (36%) were faced with the fact that they are subjected to an escalating series of penalties in cases of excess water use. The state board cited a penalty for up to $10,000 per day for water agencies that fail to meet their targeted reductions. The maximum fine for a violation by customers went from $500 to $1,000.
The offensive overuse of water (5,000 gallons of water compared to 250 gallons for an average household) captured by media drawn the public attention. Despite threats to fine the violators with $500 fines for breaking state-wide laws like washing cars without a shut-off nozzle, spraying off sidewalks and driveways, residents who use thousands of gallons of water a day, are not penalized for the excessive use.
Existing law states that a violation of a water conservation program requirements is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for no less than 30 days, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both. The New Bill SB 814, would prohibit excessive water use by a residential customer, make a violation of this punishable of at least $500 per 100 cubic feet of water used above the excessive water use definition in a billing cycle.
Jerry Hill asks to make names, home addresses, and utility usage data of residents, who are not compliant with state laws, available upon request and in some cases, public.
Fines and penalties apply only during a period of a state of emergency based on drought conditions. State Water Board staff worked with stakeholders to consider a range of factors that contribute to water usage, including climate, investment, and growth in drought-resilient water suppliers, to refine extended emergency regulation.
According to California Water Board, it is "too early to tell whether or not additional rain and snowfall will put the State in the position where the existing restrictions are no longer necessary, or could be further tempered. State Water Board staff is committed to monitoring and evaluating available data on snowpack, reservoir storage levels, and groundwater basin levels, and intends report back to the State Water Board in March and April 2016. If conditions warrant, State Water Board staff will promptly bring a proposal before the State Water Board to adjust or eliminate the Emergency Regulation."