The Latest: California fines water suppliers amid drought

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Beverly Hills among cities fined for not conserving enough water in drought.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – State officials for the first time are fining California water suppliers for failing to meet a mandated 25 percent reduction in water use in the state’s battle against a widespread drought.

Upscale Beverly Hills is among four California cities where water utilities have been fined for not forcing residents to conserve enough water during California’s unrelenting four-year drought, officials said on Friday.The city of Beverly Hills and three other water suppliers face financial penalties for falling short of state water conservation mandates, officials said Friday. Redlands spokesman Carl Baker said the city learned of the fine late Thursday and said officials will seek direction on how to respond from the City Council on Tuesday. While announcing that the state overall met its monthly conservation goals in September, officials said Beverly Hills, Indio, Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District missed their mandates by wide margins. The wealthy Los Angeles area municipality was fined $61,000 on Thursday, making it the only community not located in a desert singled out for penalties, the California State Water Resources Board said. “Some urban water suppliers simply have not met the requirements laid before them,” said Cris Carrigan, director of the water board’s Office of Enforcement. “For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late.” Californians are under orders from the water board and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to cut water usage by 25 percent over the levels used in 2013.

From June through August, California residents and businesses have saved 253 billion gallons of water, board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus told reporters on Friday. Now, we need to keep it up as best we can, even as we hope for as much rain and snow as we can safely handle.” “Up and down the state, residents and water suppliers are making the necessary sacrifices needed to help California meet its conservation goals. Residents of the wealthy enclave – who have included past stars such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, as well as current celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Wahlberg – have been asked to stop watering their lawns, fill their pools with less frequency, and switch from baths to showers.

If their conservation efforts don’t improve in the coming months, Carrigan said the state could issue cease-and-desist orders and ramp up the penalties to $10,000 a day if those orders are violated. The municipalities and utilities that received the fines had all been warned in August that they were not meeting the state’s mandated conservation targets, Carrigan said.

The fines were announced amid otherwise positive news: California’s urban water customers collectively reduced their water use by 26 percent in September, continuing to surpass the statewide mandate, but at lower levels than were seen during summer, the state water board reported. Regulators urged continued conservation even if the El Nino weather phenomenon brings winter storms to the state, because the precipitation may not fall far enough north to replenish the vital mountain snowpack that melts in the spring to feed the state’s streams and reservoirs. Denis said he’s frustrated with his community and said city officials could be doing a lot more to address the disconnect with the richest segment of the city. “They just want to show the public that they’re doing a lot, but they’re not,” he said. “I see what the city’s not doing, and I just really don’t think they care.” “If they were taking it seriously, they would have water police — or water officials, they could make it sound nicer — going around really getting people to cut back on how much water they’re using,” said Denis, an 18-year-old student at Santa Monica College. As the hot summer months give way to cooler temperatures and more rain, officials have cautioned that it may prove harder for Californians to save water. In order to attain the statewide 25% reduction in urban water use, the board assigned conservation “standards” to each of the state’s 411 urban suppliers earlier this year.

Yeah, definitely, but I think we’re in the ballpark.” The four agencies fined by the state Friday each faced high targets – and haven’t come close to meeting them since June. About 100 suppliers have received so-called information orders requiring them to send more information about the conservation measures they have undertaken, officials said. Also Friday, Brown declared a state of emergency over the loss of millions of trees across California, the result of a bark beetle infestation made worse by the drought. The city of Folsom, the Carmichael Water District, the Placer County Water Agency and the Rio Linda-Elverta Community Water District have posted cumulative water savings for June through September below their mandated targets.

Additionally, Californians are being asked to conserve amid reports of a strong El Niño, which forecasters say likely will produce more rain than normal for much of the state this year.

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