Water customers that couldn’t find the time to save water might find themselves drowning in debt by the end of the month.
The first round of fines for perpetual water wasters will hit the mail starting Feb. 29 and City Hall is expecting to send out up to 100 citations per month from here on out.
Delinquent customers have three options for the first offense: pay the fine, appeal the citation or attend “water school,” similar to traffic school. Completion of the water education course would waive the first fine.
According to Kim O’Cain, water resources specialist for the City of Santa Monica, fines will start at $250. Second violations will be $500 and the third will cost $1,000.
“After the third, we could require a water audit. We’d go on the property, make a list and we may be able to require they do certain types of upgrades,” she said. “If they continue to exceed seven or more times, we might put a flow restrictor on that would provide just basic service.”
Mandatory water cuts have been in place for months following the declaration of a Stage II water emergency. Residents have been prohibited from washing driveways or sidewalks, watering in a way that creates runoff, hose-washing vehicles without a shut-off nozzle and using potable water in a decorative fountain without recirculation.
Residents and business owners have been required to reduce their usage over their 2013 totals by 20 percent. Residential customers were given a baseline threshold for conservation that gave credit to accounts that had already implemented water saving measures. Businesses customers do not have the same threshold but can apply for adjustments if they show efforts to reduce usage.
O’Cain said 74 percent of customers are within their water allowances, but exceeding the allowance isn’t automatically grounds for a fine. City staff is evaluating the highest water users and will be fining those that have made no effort to reduce their usage or interact with the city regarding their water.
“We have worked with many of the top water users for the past few years. Many have responded to our phone calls, emails, letters we sent out, but there are some that don’t,” she said. “We’re really targeting those folks who haven’t done their part while the rest of the community has done their part.”
O’Cain said customers have done a great job so far and while some individuals are failing to meet their restrictions, the city has been able to stay within state and local mandates for water reduction thanks to the efforts of those that have participated.
She said it’s not too late for customers to take action. City Hall has options for residents and businesses available online. Home customers can sign up for a free water consultation, install water efficient appliances, check for leaks, install new landscaping, replace lawns and adjust irrigation systems. Rebates are available for several kinds of home project.
Many of the same options are available for businesses, including rebates.
For more information on water saving options, visit smgov.net/water or call (310) 458-8972.