California Water Board Approves Mandatory Restrictions, Stiff Fines for Water Wasters

California water regulators have voted to approve fines up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing.

The action on Tuesday by the State Water Quality Control Board came after its own survey showed that conservation measures to date have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction in water use sought by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Survey results released before the 4-0 vote showed that water consumption throughout California had actually risen by 1 percent this past May compared to the same month in previous years.

"Everyone in the state is going to be expected to step up and at least not waste water," said Felicia Marcus, State Water Resources Control Board Chair.

The regulations approved by the board prohibit over watering of lawns and landscaping that causes runoff onto sidewalks or streets, washing sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces, using a hose to wash a vehicle unless the hose has a shut-off nozzle and using drinking water in a fountain or decorative water feature unless the water is recirculated.

"When communities across the state experience such hardships, the least we can do is not waste water by over watering our lawns and letting hoses run when there are easy, simple ways not to do it," Marcus said.

The regulations do not target indoor water use, such as doing the laundry or dishes, although some individual cities and water districts have asked or required their users to reduce overall water consumption.

Under the new rules, urban water agencies would have to implement their water-shortage contingency plans to require mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use, if they have not done so already.

Water agencies without such a plan would have to act within 30 days to require their residents to restrict outdoor irrigation to no more than two days each week or take other mandatory steps to conserve the same amount of water.

Water agencies that do not comply could face fines up to $10,000 each day.

Under the new plan, San Francisco's Department of Public Works will still be allowed to use water to clean sidewalks due to health and safety concerns.

The department said it gets about 1,000 requests a month to clean up human waste, with cleaning crews using as much as 600 gallons of water a day.

Meanwhile, some California residents are not in favor of the new rules from the state.

"It's just not reasonable, not rational," Sacramento-resident Jim Gamble said.

Gamble, who serves as a power washer and owns the Crystal Cleaning Company, is worried his livelihood will go down the drain.

"If I can't get access to water I can't pressure wash," he said. "I can't put food on the table for my children if this goes into effect."

The approved plan is expected to go into effect on Aug. 1 and remain in place for nine months.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle contributed to this report.

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