Local

Clovis watershed: Consumption penalties hit high in September

When the drought-related water restrictions were enacted earlier this year in Clovis, Terry Mackey and his wife Marcie knew they’d have an even harder time keeping their front lawn green. So they built their own low-maintenance, low-water-use xeriscape.
When the drought-related water restrictions were enacted earlier this year in Clovis, Terry Mackey and his wife Marcie knew they’d have an even harder time keeping their front lawn green. So they built their own low-maintenance, low-water-use xeriscape. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Clovis water-conservation penalties in this drought-stricken year hit their highest level in September, as fines totaled $265,640.

It was the final time Clovis water customers will see penalties on their bills this year for violating the state-required 36 percent consumption cut.

There were 6,846 fines added to bills ranging from $12.50, $25 and $50 for residential customers. September was the second month residents could be fined as much as $50 on their water bills.

The fines raised the four-month total to about $763,000, said Luke Serpa, the city’s public utilities director.

But the fines barely put a dent in the expenses the city has to pay to run its water service program, Serpa said. The penalties, he said, were used as an incentive for savings, not as a revenue source.

6,846Number of Clovis customers fined in September

When customers cut consumption, the city bills customers less because less water is used. But the city’s fixed costs to run the treatment plant and provide water services remain the same.

Overall, the city’s revenues in September dropped by about $483,000, Serpa said. Since the water penalties went into effect, the city has saved 1.4 billion gallons, but the city’s billings have come up about $1.7 million short.

The city’s consumption for September dropped by 27.6 percent. For each of the previous three months, residents cut consumption by 32.5 percent or more. Clovis was required to save 36 percent by the state. Failing to save the required amount could mean the city would face between $500- and $10,000-per-day fines.

The city will end the penalties with the billing cycle that is due Oct. 31 because of the onset of cooler months. Without landscape irrigation, it’s unlikely that a majority of customers can cut 36 percent of their consumption, Serpa said.

“As we move into the cooler months, with the decrease in outdoor irrigation there are fewer opportunities to save water, which is a big reason why we suspended the penalties,” Serpa said.

In addition to ending the penalties, the city will reduce watering to one day a week beginning on Nov. 1 and use $25,000 worth of the penalties to improve conservation education to residents.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin

  Comments