State expands water restrictions amid persistent drought
Published - 03/18/15 - 08:11 AM | 3388 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
California residents have to turn off their sprinklers, and restaurants won't give customers water unless they ask under new drought regulations approved March 17.

The State Water Resources Control Board has extended and expanded restrictions on water use with California entering its fourth year of drought as winter ends without significant storms or snowfall to replenish dwindling reservoirs.

So far this winter, wildfires are burning through nearly four times as many acres as usual. The state firefighting agency reports that the dry conditions are forcing it to maintain its highest level of seasonal firefighters straight through the winter. The state water board, meanwhile, is pursuing ways to cut down urban water use. It voted to extend statewide outdoor water limits imposed in July, barring washing down driveways, decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and sprinklers that spray pavement.

New rules will require local water departments to restrict the number of days residents can water their lawns. If they don't, residents must follow a state rule limiting their sprinkling to twice a week. Homeowners are also barred from using sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days after.

The regulations also mandate common business conservation practices statewide. Restaurants can't offer water unless customers ask, and hotels and motels must offer guests an opportunity to decline fresh towels and sheets at hotels.

It's up to local water departments to enforce these rules, which are expected to take effect later this month. They can fine offenders $500 per violation, but few have gone that far.

The water board also decided Tuesday it will start tracking how agencies enforce the regulations, including the number of citations and warning letters issued.

Here's an outline of the new laws:

Servers in bars, restaurants and cafeterias will not bring out water with menus and silverware unless asked to. Some restaurants already have signs to notify patrons they will not automatically serve water due to the drought.

Guests must get a chance to decline fresh towels or bedsheets. Business operators must place signs in the bathroom to remind guests that they have an opportunity to conserve.

Local water departments must limit how many days a week people water their lawns (the state standard is twice a week). Homeowners are also prohibited from turning on sprinklers for two days after it rains.

When there is a leak, local water departments must notify the homeowners or business customers, although the rules don't explain how.

-- San Diego 6
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