Earth Log

August 15, 2014

Earth Log: Reaction to new water rules: Confusion, crankiness, compliance

Earth Log

Mark Grossi's dispatches from the Valley battle with air quality and water use

I have driven, bicycled and walked some neighborhoods in the last two weeks to see how people are reacting to the tougher yard-watering restrictions in Fresno. 

Two words describe some folks: Confused and snarky. Others are onboard. Many lawns are not quite green anymore.

Due to the drought, the city on Aug. 1 began limiting yard watering to twice a week, instead of three times a week. 

Odd-numbered addresses get Tuesday and Saturday. Even-numbered are Wednesday and Sunday. You can't water on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

The fine is $45, but the city is skipping the fine on the first offense and trying to educate people.

I have seen a lot of dry gutters that were routinely filled and flowing with water last month. But timing is everything. You can't water between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

That's where someone found a loophole.

"I water four times a week now instead of three," he told me when I asked him about his very green lawn. "I water at 5 in the morning and 8 at night on my two days. It's legal."

I wrote a story about one of my jaunts. A frustrated Maria Dominguez of east central Fresno called me and invited me to see the city's own sprinklers going at 10 a.m. She had called three times with no success to get the illegal watering stopped.

"We've got people who are letting their lawns go brown on this street," said Dominguez. "I'm pretty upset. Why don't they get fined?"

City spokesman Mark Standriff said the problem has been fixed. He said officials are not willfully breaking the rules. He said the city has 1,300 individual systems to maintain and needs residents to let them know when the sprinkler timing is wrong.

"We want people to call us," he said. "And this is not about the collection of fines. We want to work with people in a transparent way."

If you want to call the city with a concern, these are the phone numbers: (559) 621-5480 and (559) 621-2489.

Many people do seem to be working with the city. Some joggers have called in many addresses where people are watering on the wrong day or at the wrong time, according to the city.

These rule tweaks may prove to be a big water-saver, depending on how the community reacts. But this is just the first month, and some people can't help being suspicious of government.

One neighbor told me: "I don't like the idea of the city watching my house, and my neighbors ratting out each other."

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About Mark Grossi

@markgrossi

Mark Grossi has the pulse of the San Joaquin Valley ecosystem, writing since 1993 about subjects such as the region's notorious air quality, the restoration of the San Joaquin River and unhealthy drinking water in rural towns. Twitter: @markgrossi Email Mark at mgrossi@fresnobee.com or call him at 559-441-6316.

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