Governor proposes new water-conservation enforcement powers for local agencies

Fines would increase to $10,000 a day

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced legislation Tuesday that would authorize penalties of up to $10,000 a day against those found to have wasted water and give local authorities new powers to enforce conservation requirements.

Brown announced the new legislation following a meeting with a number of California mayors, including many from the Bay Area, to discuss the state's drought response.

The proposed legislation will include a new penalty of up to $10,000 per violation, which represents a sharp increase over the $500 per day maximum set in last year's drought legislation.

In addition, the legislation will allow wholesale and retail water agencies as well as city and county governments to enforce local and state restrictions. It will also deputize staff to issue citations, warnings and penalties -- speeding up the infraction process.

Any fines levied by local authorities would be used for local conservation efforts under the proposed legislation, according to the governor's office.

The governor also said he has directed his staff and state agencies to look for ways to streamline the environmental review process for local water agencies pursuing projects that could increase water supplies with limited environmental impacts.

"These measures will strengthen the ability of local officials to build new water projects and ensure that water is not wasted," Brown said in a statement. "As this drought stretches on, we'll continue to do whatever is necessary to help communities save more water."

The proposal to facilitate environmental approval for water supply projects has particular relevance for San Jose and Santa Clara officials, who are hoping to start work quickly on a $612 million wastewater recycling project that would expand an existing plant and upgrade several reservoirs.

Current state environmental approval rules could delay the start of construction on the North San Jose plant by nearly two years, officials said Monday.

"The governor gets it," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said after Tuesday's meeting.

While the exact form the governor's assistance might take has not yet been determined, "I feel confident that this governor understands the urgency and the need to enable cities like San Jose and Santa Clara, with our water district, to create a more sustainable water supply," Liccardo said.

Tuesday's proposals follow Brown's announcement earlier this month of mandatory 25 percent statewide reductions in urban water use, the first such order in state history. The determination of how to achieve that reduction was left up to individual water agencies, with each agency assigned a target reduction based on their current per-capita water use.

Agencies that fail to make the reductions could face fines of up to $10,000 per day, according to state officials.

After two dry winters California's mountain snowpack, which supplies much of the state's fresh drinking water, is at historic lows.

As of the beginning of April, statewide snowpack was at only five percent of the historic average. The previous historic lows were 25 percent in 2014 and 1977, state officials said.

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10 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:31 am

The lack of appropriate response from our government on a such a serious issue is appalling. The root cause of this and all of our environmental problems is over-population and over-development. Where are the directives to put in a permanent urban growth boundary around all cities and counties? Where is the directive to deny all permits for new development that will need water to be maintained? Where is the leadership to look at agricultural development over the past decade that has turned marginal semi desert lands into orchards via massive ground water pumping? Where is the ban on fracking that is polluting these ground waters and worsening global warming? Where is the educational part of solving this problem that addresses the real problems of not enough water and too many people using it for too many things. Destroying our quality of life and threatening residents with huge fines, while allowing millions of people to move here and encouraging businesses to build ever larger installations makes as much sense as passing bond measures to raise dams and build tunnels to hold and move water that doesn't exist. This governor is running from a key opportunity to show real leadership in a time of crisis, establish some long term policies to protect the state and leave a lasting legacy of effective government service. Instead he plays with trains and water tunnels.

3 people like this
Posted by Joe Commentor
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:42 pm

The 'government' response is BUILD MORE HOUSES!

3 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:54 pm

I'll be Nestle and the other companies selling our water commercially consider $10,000 a day a bargain and a cheap cost of doing business.

4 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

Who's gonna solve the drought, govt or the private sector? I just started RainDance here in Palo Alto, a company whose purpose is to quickly & meaningfully reduce residential and commercial potable H20 use by efficiently truck H20 from Palo Alto's H20 treatment plant to irrigate landscapes.

4 people like this
Posted by Jay Ess
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 29, 2015 at 3:41 pm

there are huge cities like Sacramento and Stockton which have no water meters. If the fines were put to use to place water meters in those cities a lot of waste could be stopped. Instead, those of us already conserving will be required to save another 20%.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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