The Water Police Are Here
The People's Republic of California's worsening drought and mandatory new state water rules are prompting San Francisco Bay Area water agencies to beef up their conservation staffs -- the employees sometimes called "water cops."
Only a few cities, including Santa Cruz and Sacramento, have resorted to writing tickets or issuing fines. But most others are simply responding to complaints by sending employees to homes and businesses with a stern warning, and sometimes a door hanger.
"The bottom line is that we are just not getting the results we would like to see for water reduction," said Joan Maher, deputy operating officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District reports the Contra Costa Times.
On Tuesday, the district's board will vote on whether to spend $500,000 to hire up to 10 new temporary employees to help enforce water use prohibitions across Silicon Valley.
If the proposal is approved, as expected, the workers would respond in person to complaints about property owners wasting water. They also would send the information to whichever of the 12 cities or private companies sends the property owner their bill.
Few Bay Area cities have begun to impose fines yet for wasting water, but if they eventually do, they could use the information to write tickets.
In the East Bay, the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland hired a new outreach person this week, and another starts next week, said district spokeswoman Abby Figueroa.
They will join nine other East Bay MUD staff members who help do free water audits at homes and business, look for leaks and tell property owners when they are violating the district's and state's water wasting rules.
"We have a backlog with water wasting complaints," Figueroa said. "We're getting calls about runoff, broken sprinklers, people washing cars too much. Everyone is hearing all the media reports and talking about drought a lot. The news definitely got people's attention."
In February, East Bay MUD asked its 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 percent. Between Feb. 1 and May 31, they achieved that 10 percent savings. But it is still below the 20 percent savings that Gov. Jerry Brown requested statewide in January when he declared a drought emergency as the state moved into its third dry year.
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