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State water board considers making water wasting rules permanent state law

Posted: 1:00 PM, Feb 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-20 21:40:14-05

SACRAMENTO -- State water regulators met in Sacramento Tuesday to consider making water wasting rules permanent state law, according to The Mercury News.

The State Water Resources Control Board held the public hearing, but it’s unclear whether a final vote would come Tuesday, or at a later date.

The talks come amid one of the driest winters in modern California history. The rules being discussed were originally enacted during the last drought.

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If the rules were made into state law, offenders could be fined up to $500 per violation.

The rules were originally put into place between 2014 and 2017 under orders from Governor Jerry Brown but expired November 25.

Environmentalists supported the rules and asked that they be made even stricter. The groups supported a rule that would have prohibited restaurants from serving water to customers who didn’t ask for it.

Cities have also thrown their support behind the rules, but say they object to the way they’re legally framed.

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The board has the authority to pass water rules in power granted to them by voters in 1928. According to The Mercury News, cities and farmers have feared that the authority could be used to limit water rights.

The rules that could be made into state law are:

  • Hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes;
  • Washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle;
  • Using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature;
  • Watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48 hours after measurable precipitation; and
  • Irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.

State officials say the Sierra Nevada snowpack is only 20 percent of normal making the precipitation patterns among the lowest December-January-February totals since the 1920s.

The Sierra provides one-third of California’s water. The proposal dictated that only the state water board would be able to enforce the rules.

A separate bill, SB 606, would allow cities and local agencies to enforce the rules. SB 606 is pending in the Legislature.