July 24, 2014

EDITORIAL: Government agencies also must follow watering rules

When it comes to water conservation, everyone — residents, farmers, manufacturers and government — must take part.

When it comes to water conservation, everyone — residents, farmers, manufacturers and government — must take part.

We have to squeeze the most out of every drop, not just during this historic drought parching California, but all of the time. It's a responsibility of living in the arid West.

The challenges facing us were dramatized last week when the State Water Resources Control Board made it a criminal act to waste water in our state, effective Aug. 1. People who hose down sidewalks or allow water to run into the street, for example, could be subject to fines up to $500 per day.

It almost went unnoticed, but the board said public agencies that waste water could be prosecuted for criminal infractions and fined $500 a day, too. Before government watchdogs start playing the "gotcha" game, they should know that this provision is unlikely to be enforced.

Under the law, citizens are asked to report violations to the relevant local water provider. Thus, if a citizen saw a sprinkler in a Fresno park flooding the street, he or she should call City Hall. We all know that City Hall isn't going to levy a $500 fine against itself.

And we're OK with that.

The point of making water waste a criminal act was to focus people's attention on the need to conserve. Only the most flagrant, repeat abusers should receive $500 tickets. Besides, many California cities — including Fresno — have their own rules and fines in place, and they aren't looking to use the $500 hammer.

They rightfully realize that the goals are education and conservation. Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd made these points Tuesday at a news conference publicizing local rules that also go into effect Aug. 1. Outdoor watering will be restricted to two days a week in the spring, summer and fall, and will be banned altogether Dec. 1 to March 1.

As The Bee's George Hostetter penned, the first "citation will come with a friendly chat meant to reform unwise behavior. Future citations can lead to a $45 per day fine. The city has the option of shutting off the water after the fifth citation."

In regard to public agencies that waste water, we are sympathetic to their challenges, which mirror those of residents. Pipes break, sprinkler heads get stolen and electronic timers malfunction. But when people see sprinklers running in the afternoon in a street median — a clear violation of the city's daytime watering ban — they get peeved (and might rationalize not following the rules at home).

Thus all government agencies must lead by example. In Fresno, call (559) 621-5300 to report watering problems on city properties — not to say "gotcha" but to save water.


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