While it is unclear how a series of oh-so-naughty PSAs have helped to bolster H2O-saving efforts in San Francisco, California, as a whole, is underperforming on the water conservation front having failed to meet Governor Jerry Brown’s 20 percent statewide reduction goal established in January when he declared a state of drought emergency. In fact, water usage in May across California was 1 percent higher than the previous three years.

And so, as the Golden State’s seemingly never-ending drought continues with some rather dire consequences, Brown and state water regulators in Sacramento are yet again stepping it up a notch. And this time, they mean business: No more gentle recommendations, calls for voluntarily conservation, or favors from Lady Gaga. Starting on August 1, California residents who are caught wet-handed flagrantly wasting water, specifically on landscaping given that most Californians use more water outdoors than they do indoors, will be slapped with a $500 per day fine.

Drastic droughts call for drastic measures, eh?

While some cities like Los Angeles already have long had mandatory water conservation restrictions in place that, for example, dictate how/when/where residents can irrigate their lawns or wash their cars, other parched California communities have relied on voluntary conservation measures during the state’s epic, multi-year drought nightmare. Evidently, that hasn’t worked.

An emergency state rule approved earlier today by the State Water Resources Board would enable local authorities to go after egregious water-wasters for partaking in the following drought-time no-nos:

  • Cleaning/clearing off a driveway, sidewalk, or other hard surface by spraying it with a hose.
  • Washing a car without an automatic shut-off nozzle attached to the hose.
  • Overwatering a lawn or garden to the point where runway water seeps into a sidewalk, driveway, neighboring property, or non-irrigated area.
  • Operating a decorative fountain or water feature that doesn’t recirculate water.

The above measures were established back in March but, again, were created as temporary restrictions and not criminal infractions which they will be starting in August. You may also recall that in April, Brown issued an order forbidding overzealous homeowners associations from penalizing residents who have decided to do the right thing, appearances be damned, and allow their once-lush lawns go brown.

As the Associated Press points out, it will be up to individual cities and water districts on how they'll go about implementing the fines: local law enforcement officials don't have to nab violators although they'll soon have the power to do so. A maximum $500 fine would be likely reserved for repeat — and completely oblivious — offenders; warnings and smaller fines could be issued to less shameless water-wasters. There would be some exceptions granted, of course, including agricultural businesses and municipalities that may need to turn to power-washing for public health and safety reasons.

“Our goal here is to light a fire under those who aren't yet taking the drought seriously," explains water board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus of the unprecedented emergency water conservation restrictions. “We’re all in this together. This is our attempt to say ... this is the least that urban Californians can do."

Again, the restrictions and associated fines only apply to easier-to-detect-and-enforce outdoor water usage for now … hopefully, it won't come to a point where California water regulators will be forced to send this guy into homes with a stopwatch to monitor showers anytime soon.

[ABC News], [LA Times]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Wasting water now comes with hefty fine in drought-ravaged California
In California, overwatering your lawn isn't just an objectionable act ... it's a criminal one.