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Criminal Penalty for Wasting Water in California

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Desperate for ways to prevent water loss amidst the state’s ongoing drought, California lawmakers have adopted harsh fines for wasting water. According to the new “get-tough” restrictions, wasting water outdoors would cost Californians up to $500 a day.

The restrictions include overwatering lawns and landscapes, the use of potable water in a decorative fountain—unless it recirculates,  washing sidewalks and driveways, and the use of hoses without nozzles to regulate water pressure.

 “We're not doing standards here that say you have to kill your lawn,” board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said. “We simply want people to think about their water use.”

Californians as a whole have failed to conserve water during the worst drought in a generation. Residential and business water use in California rose one percent in May, compared to a three-year average of the same month from 2011 to 2013, according to a recent survey of 276 water agencies.

Some water agencies opposed the new rules, saying it sends the wrong message in cases where customers already have achieved significant conservation success. "What you’re asking me to do now is to thank them with a sledgehammer,” said Mark Madison, general manager of Elk Grove Water District, who said his customers have cut water use 18 percent, on average.

Officials emphasized the $500 fine is not mandatory, but merely a new tool that can be deployed if necessary.

 
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