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California water wasters could be fined US$500 a day

Published:Wednesday | July 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The fountain at the Capitol Park Rose Garden sits empty in Sacramento, California. - AP

SACRAMENTO (AP):

In one of the most drastic responses yet to California's drought, state regulators yesterday considered fines of up to $500 a day for people who waste water on landscaping, fountains, washing vehicles and other outdoor uses.

The rules would prohibit the watering of landscaping to the point that run-off spills onto sidewalks or streets. Hosing down sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces would be banned, along with washing vehicles without a shut-off nozzle.

Violations would be infractions punishable by the fines, although most cities are likely to have a sliding scale that starts with a warning and increases for repeat violations.

The State Water Resources Control Board said it received about 100 written comments after it proposed the emergency regulations last week.

positive response

"So far, people have been pretty supportive," board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said. "I think people recognise that we're taking a moderate approach and we're sending a message as much as anything."

The board estimates that the proposed restrictions could save enough water statewide to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year. That's enough to meet the needs of nearly nine of every 10 Los Angeles residents.

The California Department of Water Resources estimates that cities and suburbs use about a fifth of the state's water, about half going outdoors. Agriculture is by far the greatest water user, accounting for 75 per cent of the state's consumption.

San Francisco officials worry about the prohibition on washing streets and sidewalks. Public Works Department spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said that could interfere with the frequent cleaning of alleys to wash away human waste where there are high concentrations of homeless people.