Emergency water restrictions California is imposing to reduce peoples’ outdoor water usage won’t have much additional impact in South Lake Tahoe, where most of the measures are already in place.
The State Water Resources Control Board enacted the restrictions this July after Governor Brown’s request for voluntary reductions was followed by an increase in water usage.
In some parts of California, 50 percent or more of daily water usage is for lawns and outdoor landscaping.
“We are facing the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen. And more important, we have no idea when it will end,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Board, in announcing the restrictions.
“The least urban Californians can do is to not waste water on outdoor uses. It is in their self-interest to conserve more, now, to avoid far more harsh restrictions if the drought lasts into the future,” Marcus said. “These regulations are meant to spark awareness of the seriousness of the situation and could be expanded if the drought wears on and people do not act.”
Urban water agencies such as South Tahoe Public Utility District are authorized to fine customers up to $500 per day for violations. The agencies also face fines, up to $10,000 per day, if they fail to enforce the statewide restrictions.
Designated irrigation days, not allowing irrigation water to flow over ground surfaces or onto impervious surfaces, not washing off driveways or sidewalks, and requirements to install shut-off nozzles on hoses and fix leaks are all “normal conditions” policies that have been in place for years locally, said Donielle Morse, the water conservation specialist for South Tahoe Public Utility District.
“Everything the state is now asking people to do, we’ve already been doing for 10 years,” Morse said. One exception is a new restriction on fountains and other water features using potable water. They are not allowed unless they recirculate the water they use.
South Tahoe Public Utility District is seeing an increase in people reporting water usage violations this year, not because of the state’s new restrictions, but because of concern about the drought, Morse said.
“People in the community are concerned about the drought and about people wasting water and the number of people calling in (violations) has increased.”
The utility district also has more people looking for violations, including one dedicated seasonal employee spending workdays, as well as some nights and early mornings, out in the field.
“People call them water cops. We call them water educators,” Morse said. “They work a very flexible schedule. So for those folks trying to avoid a violation by watering at midnight, we have them out at that time, too.”
A first violation results in a warning. Second, third and fourth violations in one calendar year are punishable by escalating fines. The utility district has issued more than 200 warnings so far this year.
South Tahoe Public Utility District is already mandated by California law to reduce total water consumption 20 percent by 2020. Fortunately, this area of California is seeing adequate recharge for its groundwater wells, Morse said.
“We are not in the same situation as the rest of the state but that does not mean we should not be conserving water. We should all be using water efficiently and conserving wherever possible.”