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California Imposes $500 Fine for 'Wasting' Water, Encourages 'Good Stewardship' midst Severe Drought

( [email protected] ) Jul 15, 2014 07:26 PM EDT

Drought
California's drought has devastated hundreds of farms throughout the state.

Citizens of California will now be penalized for wasting water.

As the state experiences a severe draught, the State Water Resources Board 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 San Diego Source reports.

According to the regulations, watering landscapes to the point that runoff spills onto sidewalks or streets will warrant a significant fine. In addition, hosing down hard surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways and cars will also be considered illegal.

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.

Regulators say there will be a "sliding scale" for fines that starts with a warning and increases for repeated violations.

"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 council hopes to save enough water to supply over 3.5 million people for a year. Currently, cities and suburbs in California use about a fifth of the state's water, about half going outdoors.

"The new regulations are a good incentive for Californians to be mindful of wastefulness and to be conscientious stewards of the earth God has given us," says May Healey of Sacramento.

"It might be hard for some to adjust, but I think it will be worth it in the end."

However, some San Francisco officials worry about regulating washing streets and sidewalks.

Public Works Department spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said that because of the high amount of homeless people in the region, water is necessary to cleaning out fecal matter left on the streets.

"We feel very strongly that this is a health and safety issue for people in San Francisco," she said, noting that tourists will be turned off by the smell of waste.

Although the proposed state regulations provide exceptions when health or safety is at risk, many feel fines are unnecessary in meeting Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of a 20 percent reduction in water use.

"The government should not impose regulations in this way...it's a violation of personal rights," said Ellen Regine, who lives a suburb of Sacramento.

"There are surely better ways to conserve water," she continued.

California boasts of a $44.7 billion farming industry, leading the nation in production of more than a dozen crops, including almonds, artichokes, grapes and peaches, making the state's dry spell all the more alarming.

Consequently, many state officials like Karen Ross, the department's secretary, acknowledge the severity of the drought and the government's role in managing it.

If that does not happen, Ross said the state will intervene, noting that millions of Californians depend on ground supplies for drinking water.

"It's not if there will be future droughts," Ross said. "There will be future droughts, and we need to take our lessons and prepare ourselves as much as possible."