Santa Rosa imposed mandatory restrictions on water use Tuesday as part of its ongoing water conservation efforts, but it won’t be handing out $500 tickets to water wasters just yet.
The city is instead relying on education and friendly reminders to encourage residents to help it reach the goal of a 20 percent communitywide reduction in water use.
Residents who waste water by over irrigating their lawns or hosing down their driveways will now be subject to a progressive enforcement program that will begin with a note from a city utility worker identifying the problem.
That will be followed up by letters and repeat visits and, if necessary, restricting or cutting off customers’ water, city officials said.
“Ultimately, we could turn their water off,” Jennifer Burke, deputy director of water and engineering resources, told the council Tuesday.
No one expects that to happen anytime soon. Burke stressed that the city appreciates residents’ conservation efforts to date and hopes stricter enforcement measures won’t be needed.
“Usually, customers are very responsible,” she said.
The council asked residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent in February. From March through June, the city’s water use dropped by 16 percent compared to the prior year.
That’s a laudable accomplishment, especially when compared to the rest of the state, which as seen a 1 percent increase over a similar period, said David Guhin, director of the city’s utilities department.
But new state rules announced last month forced the city to impose mandatory restrictions on water use. Those rules allow cities to levy fines of up to $500 per day for violations of prohibited uses.
But the state rules also give local jurisdictions the flexibility to use other measures to achieve the reduction goals. Santa Rosa doesn’t think fines are needed at the moment because of how responsive customers have been, she said.
Residents and businesses are now required to limit irrigation to the hours between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Leaks and runoff from irrigation are also prohibited. As is the washing of sidewalks, patios, and other hard surfaces unless there’s a public health risk. Garden hoses also need to be fitted with shutoff valves. Street-washing machines will no longer use potable water. And restaurants now cannot offer patrons water unless they request it.
Utility workers began water-waste patrols Monday. They’ll be looking for runoff from irrigation in the morning hours and contacting property owners. Residents are also encouraged to report water waste by calling a hotline, 543-3985, visting www.srcity.org/wue, or getting an app for their phone called My Santa Rosa.
The city has a variety of programs and initiatives to encourage residents to audit their water use, remove lawns in favor of drought-tolerant landscaping, install gray water and rainwater harvesting systems, and purchase water-efficient appliances.
The city will increase outreach efforts in the coming months, including hosting an outdoor water-savings expo at Coddingtown mall on Saturday, Aug. 23.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.