With California water regulators having voted to approve fines up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing, the City of Oakdale must now come up with a conservation plan for its residents and 7,000 water customers.
The move on Tuesday, July 15, by the Water Quality Control Board came after its own survey showed that conservation measures implemented voluntarily have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction in water use sought by Gov. Jerry Brown. Water Control Board survey results showed that water consumption throughout California had actually risen by one percent this past May compared to the same month in previous years.
Under the new statewide rules, any agency that does not impose mandatory conservation measures could be subject to state fines of up to $10,000 a day.
Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said the city is “in discussion” with formulating a plan for more stringent use and have been taking complaints from the public on chronic water wasters, but education and voluntary compliance are being emphasized over levying fines.
“Our goal wasn’t to make this punitive, but we do have a citation process in effect,” Whitemyer said.
Oakdale Public Services Director Thom Clark said the city already has a water conservation ordinance that has most of the things the water board called to have put in place and it’s only a matter of formalizing a final plan.
The new rules, approved by the water board, impose new restrictions on outdoor water use starting Aug. 1 that could result in fines of up to $500 per violation. The recent guidelines ban washing cars without a nozzle on a hose; watering driveways or sidewalks; using potable water in ornamental fountains; and over-watering landscaping so that water runs off into roads and adjacent properties. Recycled water is exempt.
“Our fines aren’t as high as theirs,” said Clark, stating the city gives two warnings before implementing fines.
The fines will apply only to wasteful outdoor watering, including hosing down hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways. They also include exemptions for public health and safety, such as allowing cities to power-wash sidewalks to get rid of human waste left by homeless people – a complaint merchants repeatedly have in the city.
Clark said when studying water conservation efforts he discovered that private water trucks would hook up to city fire hydrants to fill their tanks.
“I learned this was a common practice and nothing was being done about it,” Clark said. “We’re changing that and cracking down.”
Clark said trucks now have to have a city meter and if not, they would be fined if caught. He said there have already been a couple of violators cited in June.
While the state overall may have increased some of its water usage, Clark complimented residents here, showing June well pumping figures that had a 63 million gallon drop, or 26 percent, from the previous year.
“We’re meeting the 20 percent,” Clark said.
To assist residents, city personnel will come out to homes to adjust sprinkler timers for proper settings.
“With steep grades in some front lawns and the hard soil, especially in Bridle Ridge, it’s best to run sprinklers for only four minutes, three to four times a day rather than one lengthy 15 minute session,” Clark said.
The city has a water conservation tab and additional tips in the public works section of its website.