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City water conservation measures lackluster compared to state regulations
Water drop collision

While the State Water Resources Control Board recently approved an emergency regulation to allow local governments and agencies to fine citizens for excessive outdoor water use, local citizens will not be affected by the new measures since the City of Turlock instituted its own water conservation rules more than 20 years ago.

Precipitated by the severe drought that struck California in the late 1980s, the City of Turlock’s current conservation measures fine water wasters on an increasing scale based on the number of noncompliance reports made. Compared to the new state measures which can fine agencies up to $10,000, the City’s fines are meager with offenses generating between $25 and $250 fines.  

“This drought is being felt by communities all over California,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “The least that urban Californians can do is to not waste water on outdoor uses. It is in their self-interest to conserve.”

Once the City has been notified of excessive water waste, either through local residents phoning in or by City officials’ own observations, City employees go to the site and speak with the residents.  First time offenders receive a warning but in order to curb repeat offenses a fine is issued upon the second report should the City need to visit that residence again.

“Most of the enforcement action we take is more aimed at education. If someone has water running at three in the morning it’s likely a leak for example. It’s more effective to educate people on how to adjust their sprinklers or their timers and that’s what we do,” said City Manager Roy Wasden. 

So far this year 244 reports have been made to the City of Turlock regarding excessive water use, which may include multiple calls for certain residences. Comparatively speaking the number of reports is slated to decline this year with a total of 568 reports having been placed in 2013 and 639 in 2012. The decrease in numbers may be an indication of locals’ cooperation with Gov. Jerry Brown’s request that all citizens reduce their water use by 20 percent since declaring that state’s drought status last April.

“I do think we have in place an advanced water system that measures water and a good interaction with our water users and citizens that has been positive,” said Michael Cooke, director of Municipal Services. “The only surprise to me is that some water agencies didn’t have drought conservation measures in place.”

Californians use more outdoor water than indoor water through activities such as watering their lawns and outdoor landscaping, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. In order to conserve locals are adhering to outdoor water regulations by watering on alternative days based on the last number of their addresses. With no watering on Mondays and restricted watering hours throughout the week, the City of Turlock serves as an example of conservation efforts that are becoming commonplace across the state.