I know the last thing you want to read is another article, entry, see a meme, on water conservation and drought.

However, sharing is caring. If you manage property in California, it is important to share what resources are available to you during a scarcity. Although there isn’t much water, there is a plethora of resources available to better manage your costs, consumption and keep you from being penalized. What do you really know about what you don’t know about water in California?

Since August 1 the water police have been active in California. They are our conservation dementors coming to suck out your wasted water propensities. Yup, the California drought has become so significant that mandatory water restrictions are now in effect. (Remember my last article on Drought “Everything Old is New Again?” Did you think I was crying wolf?) If there is a violation, you will be fined.

These fines will be targeting wasteful outdoor water use and cost up to $500 per day of offense. These are things we can be fined for:

  1. Irrigation water on hardscapes If you have significant water run-off onto roads or walkways, or broken sprinkler heads, you may be fined. This is the most targeted offense in the multifamily sector simply because not only the water police are watching you. Good Samaritans who see you watering inappropriately, have the ability to call the water company and report you. When they call your local water provider’s automated system the first option is “If you would like to report a water offense, press 1.” Cities are actually hiring for “water conservation officers” to manage the good people who are calling in to report offenses and levy fines.
  2. Power washing hardscapes Unless you need to pressure wash for health and safety reasons (urine, feces, blood, etc.), you will be fined for power washing with potable water. Hardscapes are not just defined as walkways and parking lots, but as buildings, windows, gutters, etc.
  3. Fountains If your community has a fountain that does not have a recirculation pump, and you run that fountain, you’ll be fined.
  4. Car washing stations Unless your hoses have an affixed nozzle on the end, operating this car wash stations can result in a fine of up to $500 per offense.

These mandatory restrictions are expected to be in place for the next 9 months (until April 2014). Don’t think you can delay your project until January (California’s rainiest month) and not be fined. Show self-control and wait until the mandatory restrictions are lifted. It is important to note that if we do not get substantial rain to end this drought, it is very possible the restrictions will be extended or made permanent.

In my experience the water agencies will provide you a warning for a first offense, but don’t consider your window washing project that is scheduled to take three days to fall under “one offense” if you are warned the first day. Proceed at your own risk.

More on irrigation
The irrigation slogan in the Bay Area is “Brown is the new Green.” The recommendation from the water districts is to significantly reduce the amount of water we give our grass and plants.

Additionally, most water districts and/or local agencies have punishable offenses related to irrigation. It is now common for water districts and cities to restrict the times and days that you can water your landscape and for how long. There are significant fines. Some agencies have instituted a water budgeting tool based on Google map images of your site. If you exceed the agencies water budget for your site you can be fined.

Yes, California is in a drought, so sticking your head in the sand can be very costly. Don’t do it. Get involved and don’t wait for the next person to manage this process.

Carrots in addition to sticks
Being informed has its advantages. Not only can you, hopefully, sidestep penalties and fees, but many of the water districts offer rebates around landscaping and water related fixtures at your sites. Some districts are even giving away free (my favorite f-word) low-flow showerheads and aerators. Yes, you may get push-back from your residents who may (incorrectly) assume that low-flow means low pressure. We will have much, much lower water pressure if we have no water at all. So the more you know, the more you will save, not just on water costs and fines, but on the equipment you may need to control the uncontrollable.

Better know your water district
In spirit of Stephen Colbert’s segment “Better know your district,” I am applying this methodology to our water districts here in California. I am pleased and honored to present to you, your California Water Districts and agencies:


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