The lawn in front of the California State Capitol is seen dead on 18 June 2014 in Sacramento, California. As the California drought conitnues, the grounds at the California State Capitol are under a reduced watering program and groundskeepers have let sections of the lawn die off in an effort to use less water. Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

By DON THOMPSON
15 July 2014

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – In one of the most drastic responses yet to California's drought, state regulators on Tuesday will consider fines up to $500 a day for people who waste water on landscaping, fountains, washing vehicles and other outdoor uses.
   
The rules would prohibit the watering of landscaping to the point that runoff spills onto sidewalks or streets. Hosing down sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces would be banned along with washing vehicles without a shut-off nozzle.

Violations would be infractions punishable by the fines, although most cities are likely to have a sliding scale that starts with a warning and increases for repeat violations.

The State Water Resources Control Board said it received about 100 written comments after it proposed the emergency regulations last week.

"So far, people have been pretty supportive," board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said. "I think people recognize that we're taking a moderate approach and we're sending a message as much as anything."

The board estimates that the proposed restrictions could save enough water statewide to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year. That's enough to meet the needs of nearly nine of every 10 Los Angeles residents.

The California Department of Water Resources estimates that cities and suburbs use about a fifth of the state's water, about half going outdoors. Agriculture is by far the greatest water user, accounting for 75 percent of the state's consumption.

San Francisco officials worry about the prohibition on washing streets and sidewalks. Public Works Department spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said that could interfere with the frequent cleaning of alleys to wash away human waste where there are high concentrations of homeless people.

"We feel very strongly that this is a health and safety issue for people in San Francisco," she said.

Nor does it do much for tourism if visitors see or smell the waste. During the past 12 months, she said the city responded to about 8,000 calls to steam clean streets of human waste. [more]

California water wasters could be fined $500 a day

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