It's official, the so-called "water cops" are coming to the South Bay. The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board unanimously voted to spend up to $500,000 to hire five to 10 new water cops Tuesday night.
The water cops will respond to complaints of water waste and work to increase the district's overall water conservation goal of 20 percent.
"It's a reminder that it's not a business as usual year. This is an exceptional drought, we have to take exceptional action," said Deputy Administrative Officer Teresa Alvarado.
Their official term will be decided in the future. For now, the district is calling them "water educators" because they won't actually write tickets or enforce anything.
Instead, they'll investigate claims, teach conservation, and report chronic water wasters to that person's water company.
"(The companies) are the ones that enforce any ordinances the city or private retailer has in that area," Alvarado said.
Water Use Efficiency Manager Jerry De La Piedra says they did research to determine if the water educators were a good idea.
"I would say there's studies that have shown education does lead to water savings and so we will continue to do that," he said.
Arborist Mark Barton disagrees, and thinks the $500,000 should be spent on broader education. He suggested PSAs and signs on buses.
"I think we've got two million people in the South Bay that need to be educated, and from what I can see most people don't know how to water a tree," Barton said.
He believes showing people proper watering methods can save them hundreds of gallons of water.
"If you take the combination of mulch and drip irrigation, you can cut your water use 30-70 percent."
The new "water educators" are expected to start in late-August. The district will start hiring people soon. Alvarado says the money for the positions comes from reserve funds, and won't immediately affect rates.