New state law mandates fines for big water wasters in drought

State Sen. Jerry Hill authored new law

Big water wasters will be subject to big fines or surcharges during drought conditions under a new state law authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, Aug. 29.

The law, which was suggested by a constituent as part of Sen. Hill's annual "Oughta be a law…" contest, goes into effect Jan. 1.

The law says all urban retail water suppliers must set rules for identifying and cracking down on households that consume enormous amounts of water during declared droughts in the state.

“This legislation ensures that every urban retail water supplier has a tool to curb excessive water use by customers,” Sen. Hill said. "Households that guzzle water -- while their neighbors and most other Californians abide by mandatory reductions -- will no longer be able to hide and persist in their excess."

Sen. Hill's office says the law was proposed by a San Mateo resident who was outraged over news reports that hundreds of household in the state used a million gallons or more of water a year -- with one household consuming an astounding 12 million gallons -- despite restrictions in place at the time. The constituent who proposed the law asked to remain anonymous.

Water providers will have to either build surcharges for excessive water use into their rate structures or establish their own excessive water use ordinance, including ways to identify and address excessive water use by residential customers. Warnings or on-site audits are allowed before fines are assessed, and an appeals process and method for collecting fines that aren't paid are required.

The ordinance must include a fine of up to $500 for each 100 cubic feet -- 748 gallons -- above the excessive-use definition.

The new law does not define what excessive water use is, so the definition will be up to the water providers.

California is entering its fifth year of historic drought. Although the State Water Resources Control Board has lifted its mandatory 25 percent water use reduction order after the water supply improved, almost 60 percent of the state continues to be in a severe drought and more than 42 percent of the state is still in an extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Sen. Hill's office says.

According to the State Water Resources Control Board, Californians reduced their water use by a cumulative 24.2 percent between June 2015 and June 2016.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


2 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm

As we all know, lawns are enormously water-intensive. And, as we also know, lawns are nearly a religion in the US, especially in the suburbs. However, even with our cult of lawns, residential water use -- at its worst -- is trivial compared to agricultural water consumption in California.

See: Web Link

See also: Web Link

Think almonds, soy, rice. Think about our southern near-desert regions that sustain agriculture through aggressive watering with water rates a fraction of what we residents pay. But, remember, urban/residential use is roughly 10% to 20% of total state water consumption. Yet, the state government turns to all of us with threats and punishment, as if we could ameliorate the shortages and drought that have hit the state. At best, our water savings are trivial, you might say, "a drop in the bucket."

Like this comment
Posted by Farmers Only
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Move rice to areas with frequent rain. Almonds should probably go also. A couple other big water wasters.

How? Simply stop all the corporate welfare that goes to these water wasting crops and growers. Time to revisit the money that goes to large ag corporations that hide under the tax law as family farms. Time to 'Make America Great Again'.

Ignore the noise published by lobbyists for rice and Big Ag. They have as much to do with farming as the Farmers Only dating site.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Growing rice in this state is asinine.

Like this comment
Posted by Farmers Only
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

"Growing rice in this state is asinine."

A somewhat more succinct analysis.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,642 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 15 comments | 2,518 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,470 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,644 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,051 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More