[guest post by Dana]
Along with facing a massive crisis on its southern border, California is also in the throes of the what is being called the worst short-term (one- to three- years) drought on record.
As such, California’s State Water Resources Control Board decided to impose a maximum $500-a-day fine on residents for wasting water. The new rules begin August 1. The following can be subject to fines:
• Direct application of water to wash sidewalks and driveways.
• Landscape irrigation that causes runoff to streets and gutters.
• Washing a motor vehicle using a hose without a shut-off nozzle.
• Using drinkable water in a decorative fountain unless it recirculates the water.
Earlier this year, Governor Brown called for a voluntary 20% reduction in state water usage. Unfortunately, the goal was not met.
And to show just how severe it is, these are released estimates of record costs caused by this drought:
$2.2 billion in total statewide costs,
Loss of 17,100 farm jobs,
More groundwater pumping to make up for a 6.6 million acre-foot reduction in river water supplies,
Removal of at least 5 percent of irrigated farmland from production in Central and Southern California, including the Central Coast.
Now, let me introduce you to Glendora, CA couple Laura Whitney-Korte and her husband Michael who are caught between a brown lawn or face fines if they don’t ‘green’ their grass within 60 days.
Like many Californians, Whitney-Korte and her husband have taken measures to save water, everyday things like only watering the lawn two times a week, turning off the shower while soaping up and turning off the faucet while brushing teeth. But the lawn, the brown lawn, that’s the problem. The city of Glendora is not happy about it, so they contacted Whitney-Korte and her husband:
[W]hat has she received for her water-saving efforts? A threatening letter from the city of Glendora’s code enforcement team saying that her brown lawn could be a “potential public nuisance problem” that may cost her $100-$500 in fines and possible criminal action.
“Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green,” read the letter, which said maintaining this appearance is part of keeping Glendora beautiful and keeping up city’s “Pride of the Foothills” image.
The letter, with the city seal and the police department seal, contained three pictures: a dead lawn with a red line through it, a weedy lawn also crossed out and a lush, green lawn with a sprinkler running in the daytime, apparently the positive example.
Thus they find themselves caught in a ridiculous position. On one hand, the state wants to see a 20% water reduction in homes and gives power to cities to fine water-wasters, yet at the same time a city threatens fines if a lawn, now brown due to water-saving measures, isn’t greened up.
Ironically, the couple received the letter the same day that the State Water Resources Control Board gave local agencies the power to hand out $500 fines for over watering lawns. And even more ironically, it will take the couple watering their brown lawn every day in order to green it up within the 60 day limit!
The City Manager denies the couple was cited but rather called it a friendly letter prompted by a neighbor’s complaint.
At this point in time, the couple say they plan to kill the remaining grass at the roots and re-seed with a heartier, more drought resistant grass.
On a side note, if the couple lived in Santa Cruz, CA and were fined for wasting water, rather than being fined for water conservation, they could attend the Santa Cruz Water School, in lieu of paying the fine.