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California water waste fees trump homeowner association fees

by Vickie Vértiz
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Monday, July 24, that protects Californians who do not water their lawns during a drought from incurring fees from homeowner associations in cities such as Anaheim.
The bill, AB 2100, forbids homeowner associations from imposing additional fines on people who stop watering their lawns to conserve water in serious droughts such as the one the state is in currently.
“We can’t be sending mixed messages about the importance of conserving water during this drought,” said Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), the author of the bill.
She added that, “Fines for wasting water make sense. Fines for not watering your lawn don’t. We shouldn’t punish people who are doing the right thing. We need every drop of water.”
The Governor had asked Californians in January to cut water use by 20 percent, but a new state survey showed that average water use rose by one percent this year, compared to the average 2011-2013. The culprits for increased water usage were in Southern California.
The State Water Resources Control Board released the report earlier in July.
“California is in the worst drought we’ve seen in our grandparents’ generation or beyond,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the water board. “Fields are going fallow. Thousands of people are going to be out of work. There are communities that are out of water — they’re bathing out of buckets and water trucks are coming in to help them.”
The law bans washing cars without a nozzle, watering driveways or sidewalks, using drinkable water in decorative fountains, and over-watering yards so much that the water runs off into roads. Recycled water is excluded.
Some people have reduced their water usage. However, when one couple in Glendora stopped watering their lawn every day and dropped down to twice a week, a letter from the city code enforcement unit warned them to water their grass or receive $100 to $500 in fines and possible criminal action, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported. The letter said it recognized the need to conserve water, but wished “to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green.”
People in Anaheim also received these kinds of warnings from the city. Our state remains in a severe drought of three years, with no end in sight. Evidently, even cities had not understood how grave our water situation has become. “But many parts of California don’t seem to realize how bad it is,” said Marcus, “because they are so far away from their source of water. We are all in this together, and this is not a time to waste water.”
But the game has changed. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that, under the new law, any agency or city that does not impose mandatory water conservation could be subject to state fines of up to $10,000 a day.
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