Area cities grappling with new drought regulations

Several local city officials gave comments recently in light of the state Water Resources Control Board imposing strict water conservation measures on residents of the state.
The board recently approved fines up to $500 a day for people who waste water on landscaping, fountains, washing vehicles and other outdoor uses.
Elaine Aguilar, Sierra Madre City Manager, said the board actually did not approve fines, rather regulations, that extend to local agencies.
“So, the enforcement responsibilities are on local government and local water suppliers,” Aguilar said. “Someone found to be in violation of the prohibitions are subject to a fine of up to $500 for each day the violation occurs. However, local agencies, such as Sierra Madre, have the ability to determine the best course of action. For example, cities may opt to issue a smaller fine to first-time violators or issue a warning citation indicating that further action may be taken should violations continue.”
She added enforcing the measures is difficult due to staffing limitations.
“Regarding Sierra Madre’s resources to enforce the new regulations, we do not have the resources to dedicate a full-time employee to enforcement activities, but we can achieve enforcement by authorizing a number of different departments to enforce the ordinance,” Aguilar said. “Enforcement can be handled by a combination of public works, police and planning/code enforcement staff, and there is also a role for volunteers to assist in identifying violations and to assist with public outreach and education.”
Steve Preston, San Gabriel city manager, said as it gets water from a variety of sources it will be difficult to work within the new measures.
“The unique challenge for San Gabriel – one of those communities in the valley that does not have a municipally operated water system – is that we have five different water companies, public and private, operating within our city limits,” Preston said. “So, it will take some collaboration between our staff and those five providers to figure out the best way to enforce regulations that will be fair, reasonable, and not pit residents against one another.”
In Arcadia, Tom Tait, public works services director, said the city has been trying to cut its water usage by 20 percent for some time.
“In February 2014, the city adopted a resolution calling on all water customers to cut water usage by 20 percent,” Tait said. “In order to reach the 20 percent goal, residents were asked to monitor outdoor water usage by curtailing activities such as hosing off driveways and sidewalks, adjusting sprinkler timing, and fixing any water leaks on their properties in a timely manner. To date, water usage by Arcadia water customers has been comparable to usage last year.”
He added as that figure is difficult to reach, conservation is taking place.
“Although, the 20 percent water conservation goal was not achieved, it is important to note that there was about 60 percent less rainfall this year compared to last year,” he said. “It is reasonable to assume that Arcadia water customers did indeed conserve outdoor water consumption through efficient use during periods of sparse or no rainfall.”
(Shel Segal can be reached at He can be followed via Twitter @segallanded.)

July 25, 2014

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