Water Waste Ordinances and Enforcement Primer

Tool 2 Rain Bird.jpg
This tool provides a survey of the water conservation ordinances[1] that authorize local governments to discourage water waste and reduce overall demand. It is designed as a reference to assist water service providers in developing policies to meet their conservation goals.[2] (Local districts are not empowered to enact ordinances, they can, however, promulgate regulations. For convenience in this tool we use the term ordinance to refer to all of these actions.) This tool contains four principal parts. The first part briefly introduces the state statutes that mandate water conservation. The second contains a summary of a broad survey of water conservation ordinances, including notable distinctions in their contents. The third section briefly summarizes trends observed in recent ordinances, points to additional resources, and notes partnership opportunities. The final part contains an appendix that details actual language from water conservation ordinances from across the state. It is not meant as a “model” ordinance. Rather, it’s more of a “cafeteria” where would-be ordinance enactors or amenders can select from a wide array of choices.

A. Legislative and Rulemaking Background

The Water Conservation in Landscaping Act,[1] the 2009 Water Conservation Act,[2] and the Urban Water Management Planning Act[3] respectively require local water providers to limit irrigated landscape,[4] cut daily urban per capita water consumption,[5] and to plan future uses based on anticipated supply.[6] The collective effect of these statutes has been to require water providers to address demand-side reduction through a variety of approaches. One prominent method of addressing demand is to enact an ordinance prohibiting certain uses of water. As a result, the water conservation ordinances discussed in this report can assist water providers in meeting the water use reduction requirements described above.

In separate rulemakings in 2014 and 2015, the California State Water Resources Control Board prohibited certain water uses except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency. These include:

  1. The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
  2. The use of a hose that dispenses potable water to wash motor vehicle, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use;
  3. The application of potable water to driveways and sidewalks;
  4. The use of potable water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, except where the water is part of a recirculating system; and
  5. Using outdoor irrigation during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation

The prolonged and increasing severity of the current drought and the Governor’s mandated 25% reduction (statewide) over 2013 levels, call for much more stringent water use restrictions.

B. Survey of Water Conservation Ordinances

This report is based on data gathered from over 200 water waste ordinances.[7] This data, discussed in detail below, highlights the diversity of approaches for implementing mandatory conservation measures.

B.1 Water Waste Ordinances

A water waste ordinance is a law that is designed to reduce consumer demand by imposing penalties on those that use water in ways that are defined as “wasteful” or “non-essential.”[8] To this end, conservation ordinances often contain: (a) a definition of wasteful or non-essential uses; (b) penalties; (c) an enforcement mechanism; and (d) exemptions. Examples of elements for each of these components are discussed in the following sub-sections.

1.1 Definition of Waste

Instead of providing one overarching definition for waste, most water conservation ordinances define waste by listing specific uses for water that are never permitted. The uses that are commonly identified as wasteful either lack social value or can be accomplished with significantly less water usage. Examples of how waste is defined are discussed below, and Appendix A contains a collection of the definitions for water waste that were encountered during the survey of ordinances.

1.1.1 Outdoor Water Usage

The most common mandatory prohibitions on the use of water are associated with the irrigation of outdoor landscaping. Although the State Water Resource Control Board’s (SWRCB) 2014 emergency drought regulations[9] temporarily prohibit certain water uses, almost all[10] water providers who have enacted water waste ordinances already restrict the over-irrigation of landscaping by characterizing any water flowing off of the property or onto an impermeable surface as per se waste.[11] Further, a majority of jurisdictions already ban other wasteful uses targeted by the emergency drought regulations, such as running a hose that is not equipped with a shut-off nozzle.[12] In addition to the prohibitions described in the regulations, municipalities frequently enact more detailed restrictions addressing, for example, technical specifications for irrigation equipment,[13] evaporation from pools,[14] or recreational uses.[15] Although not usually considered part of “water waste ordinances,” additional restrictions apply to properties that are subject to a given jurisdiction’s version of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO), required under the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act.[16]

1.1.2 Indoor Water Usage

A number of jurisdictions have enacted detailed requirements for indoor water usage by requiring homeowners to replace plumbing fixtures that do not meet efficiency standards.[17] These requirements generally apply only to newly developed structures,[18] or to existing structures that are sold or substantially remodeled.[19] However, some jurisdictions have required all homes to retrofit plumbing fixtures regardless of sale or substantial remodel.[20] Additionally, some homeowners are required to ensure that their indoor plumbing is free of any leaks.[21]

1.1.3 Water Usage at Commercial Facilities

Water usage at car washes, commercial kitchens, hotels, coin-operated laundries, and restaurants is explicitly restricted under many water waste ordinances. Most common are the requirements that hotels and restaurants only perform water intensive activities, such as deliver a glass of water or launder towels, at the request of the customer.[22] Also common are technical requirements for sinks at commercial kitchens, washing machines in coin-operated laundries, or water reuse at car wash facilities.[23] The fines for violations in commercial facilities are typically identical to those for violations on residential properties,[24] but some ordinances require larger penalties for commercial users receiving high volume service.[25]

1.1.4 Volumetric Restrictions

In addition to defining waste by type of use, it is often also defined by volume used. In areas where all or most water service connections have been equipped with a water meter, water providers can discourage wasteful uses through excess use charges based on the volume of water consumed at each connection.[26] However, in some instances, single-family residences are exempted from water waste prohibitions if their monthly usage is less than a fixed allotment.[27]

1.2 Exceptions

In order to avoid unduly harsh enforcement of water waste regulations, most jurisdictions include exceptions that are designed to address extenuating circumstances that justify what is otherwise considered a wasteful use of water.

1.2.1 Outdoor Exceptions

The prohibitions on outdoor water use are explicitly relaxed for certain categories of water users, such as cemeteries,[28] registered historic sites,[29] commercial nurseries and growers,[30] botanical gardens,[31] or golf courses.[32] Certain uses are also frequently exempted from water waste prohibitions, including water used for public health or safety,[33] new landscaping,[34] or fire suppression.[35] Lastly, recycled water users[36] or those employing a rain water system[37] are generally not subject to the same usage restrictions as potable water users.

1.2.2 Indoor Exceptions

The water use restrictions that apply to indoor water usage tend to restrict water consumption overall, as opposed to particular uses.[38] However, some exceptions, such as “to avoid an undue hardship to the owner,”[39] or because the “use is necessary for the medical needs of the customer,”[40] potentially apply to indoor uses.

1.3 Penalties

The penalties attached to water conservation ordinances vary greatly, both in type and severity. Many jurisdictions reserve the authority to apply multiple types of penalties, often depending on whether or not the customer is a repeat offender,[41] while other ordinances only reserve the authority to fin[42] or to terminate service.[43]

1.3.1 Written Warning

Many jurisdictions explicitly provide that a written warning be given to the customer on his or her first violation, and that any fines or other punishments only be administered once this warning has first been delivered.[44] Some jurisdictions require two written warnings before a penalty can be applied.[45]

1.3.2 Fines

A single violation of the SWRCB’s emergency drought regulations can lead to fines of up to $500,[46] while state law permits a maximum fine of $1000 for local water conservation ordinances.[47] The majority of jurisdictions have adopted a fine schedule that begins at well-below $500 for the first violation, with fines increasing per violation,[48] or during an official water shortage.[49] Additionally, although the 2014 drought regulations specifically designate water waste as a misdemeanor, many ordinances define it as an infraction.[50] Lastly, some jurisdictions explicitly state that each violation, or each day that a violation continues, is an additional offense with which the customer may be charged.[51]

1.3.3 Surcharges

In addition to or in lieu of fines, some ordinances either levy a surcharge on the volume of water actually wasted or add a flat fee or percentage increase onto the customer’s bill after a confirmed incident of waste.[52] For jurisdictions where most or all service connections have a water meter, a surcharge can be added that is equivalent to the amount of water used in excess of a fixed allotment.[53] In jurisdictions where most customers do not have a water meter, the surcharge is a flat-fee either in lieu of[54] or in addition to fines.[55] See Tool #3 Water Shortage Pricing Primer for more information.

1.3.4 Flow Restrictor Installation

The option to install a flow restrictor on a customer’s connection, at that customer’s expense, is reserved by many jurisdictions.[56] Although most ordinances require that the customer have multiple violations before a flow restrictor is installed,[57] some ordinances allow the water provider to install a flow restrictor after only one violation.[58] Furthermore, these ordinances often provide for a minimum amount of time that the restrictor must remain on the connection.[59] Most ordinances specify that the customer is responsible for the installation and removal costs.[60]

1.3.5 Water Meter Installation

In service areas where connections are being retrofitted with meters, the city will install a water meter on any flat-rate connection, at the customer’s expense, if that customer violates water waste restrictions.[61]

1.4 Enforcement Mechanisms

The enforcement mechanisms within the ordinance identify either the individuals that have the authority to enforce the law or the procedure for prosecuting violators, or both. Enforcement mechanisms vary widely, but the most common approaches are captured by the headings below.

1.4.1 Enforcement by Government Officials

Most ordinances expressly authorize a specific government official or office to design a program to issue citations for violations.[62] The officials most commonly given explicit authority to enforce the ordinance are code enforcement, the public works director, or city police.[63]

1.4.2 Citizen Enforcement

Citizen reports of water waste can assist in the enforcement of water use restrictions by reducing the amount of time spent identifying potential violators. For example, the City of Brea, has established a “water waste hotline” that allows residents to report water waste.[64] Another jurisdiction, the City of Palo Alto, requires its utilities department to investigate citizen reports of violations “to the extent possible.”[65] Even without a requirement in their ordinance, city departments in other jurisdictions have established citizen reporting websites and hotlines.[66]

1.4.3 Planning Restrictions

Restrictions concerning landscape water use efficiency and indoor plumbing fixture efficiency can be enforced when a property owner is seeking local land use approval.[67] Following the enactment of the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act, many local governments have approved ordinances that restrict outdoor landscaping at new residential or commercial developments. The most common restrictions affect total water usage, setting a “Maximum Applied Water Allowance” (sometimes referred to as a “water budget”),[68] plant variety,[69] or the total amount of “turf” (grass) that may be installed.[70] Similarly, planning restrictions on indoor water use require applicants to install plumbing fixtures that meet predetermined efficiency criteria.[71] Compliance with both indoor and outdoor water conservation requirements is both the applicant’s responsibility and a condition of approval.[72] Some ordinances require specific information from the applicant,[73] while others require a formal inspection by a licensed official.[74] As a result, enforcement of planning ordinances can prevent inefficient new uses by joining land use entitlements with water conservation requirements.

1.5 Education

One major source of water savings has been voluntary reductions by conservation-conscious customers.[75] In recognition of the need to educate the public about methods of realizing reductions in water use, many ordinances include provisions that mandate public outreach. Examples include: (1) requiring signage with tips on water savings at all public and quasi-public facilities;[76] (2) requiring new developments to install drought-resistant landscape at fifty-percent of model homes;[77] and (3) a general requirement that the city disseminate water savings information to the public.[78] Another notable method of public outreach is to offer “Conservation Seminars,” popularly known as “Water School,” i.e., courses that provide information about water conservation to water waste ordinance violators in exchange for waiving fines.[79]

B.2 Drought Ordinances

Most water waste ordinances operate in conjunction with drought or water shortage ordinances.[80] Typically, when there is no drought declared, these ordinances merely recommend voluntary conservation measures[81] or impose only a limited number of prohibitions on use.[82] However, once a drought or water supply shortage is declared, more severe restrictions automatically come into place[83] or the governing body is given explicit authority to enact more stringent measures of their choosing.[84] A majority of these ordinances describe multiple drought or water shortage phases (e.g., Phases I – IV), and the procedures that must be observed by the governing body when declaring that a particular drought stage exists.[85]

2.1 Drought Restrictions

The severity of the restrictions that can be imposed under existing drought ordinances varies between jurisdictions. The subsections below highlight common drought restrictions found in existing ordinances.

2.1.1 Outdoor Restrictions

Drought ordinance prohibitions on outdoor water use become increasingly more restrictive as water shortages become more severe.[86] In the most severe drought stages, many ordinances completely ban outdoor watering,[87] except by bucket,[88] handheld hose with a shut-of nozzle,[89] or drip system;[90] or, by actively used sports fields,[91] commercial growers and nurseries,[92] or for erosion control.[93] These restrictions affect all outdoor water uses, including the filling of pools,[94] operation of outdoor water features,[95] or dust control during construction.[96]

2.1.2 Indoor Restrictions

Aside from restrictions on indoor uses that result from volumetric limits,[97] the responsibility to fix leaks,[98] or requirements to install high-efficiency fixtures,[99] none of the ordinances encountered explicitly restrict indoor water use by residential customers.

2.1.3 Commercial Restrictions

The water use restrictions that apply specifically to commercial users during drought stages are usually no different from the common restrictions that permanently apply to commercial uses in many areas.[100] A few ordinances explicitly state that production at industrial or commercial facilities may be curtailed to maintain adequate water supplies,[101] while others provide a specific exemption for industrial and commercial uses.[102]

2.1.4 Volumetric Restrictions

Volumetric restrictions are employed during drought stages and require customers to limit water usage to a predetermined volumetric limit,[103] or by a certain percentage compared to average use during a certain period.[104] The percentage reduction mandated by the ordinance increases as more severe drought stages are declared.[105]

2.1.5 Price-Signaling

A small number of jurisdictions use price signaling as their method of meeting reduction goals during water shortages. One approach to price signaling during drought that has been enacted by the City of Del Mar includes both a general ten percent surcharge for all users (to recover from losses associated with diminished sales) and a three-tiered price scale that is based on volume consumed (the per-unit price for water doubles once customers exceed a fixed allocation and enter a higher price tier).[106] Similarly, the Irvine Ranch Water District has enacted a permanent rate structure under which customers are assigned a “base allocation” depending on the size and character of their property (e.g., residential or non-residential).[107]Once customers have been assigned a base allocation, then they will be charged for any water used in excess of that allocation at a higher pricing tier.[108] During drought stages, the water district has the authority to reduce base allocations and adjust pricing tier thresholds.[109] See Tool #3 Water Shortage Pricing Primer for more information.

C. Findings and Further Opportunities

C.1 Summary of Findings

An in-depth analysis of the existing water conservation ordinances in California has revealed a clear trend: statutes enacted more recently tend to define violations in more specific terms,[110] while ordinances enacted less recently tend to define violations in an open-ended manner.[111] More specifically, newer ordinances list certain water uses that qualify as a per se violation,[112] while older ordinances simply note that wasteful or negligent use is not permitted.[113] Beginning in 2008 – 09, many jurisdictions revised or enacted local ordinances to include specific definitions of waste, whereas the ordinances in jurisdictions that have not recently revised their definition of water waste were open-ended.[114] This trend is likely due to the water conservation requirements that are placed on water providers as a result of the statutes discussed in Section 2. Therefore, local governments with a water waste ordinance that was enacted prior to 2009 may not currently have the authority to prevent common forms of water waste, and may consider adopting a definition of waste that explicitly restricts common wasteful uses.

C.2 Additional Resources

Example Ordinances Submitted to the Council as part of Reporting on BMP 1.1: http://cuwcc.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=p-aeQK2A1PQ%3d&tabid=259&portalid=0&mid=1302 Most ordinances will be viewable via a simple web search.

Example customer notice letters are available online at: http://cuwcc.org/Portals/0/Document%20Library/Resources/Drought%20Resources/Tool%20Kit/Resources/Tool%203%20Example%20Notices.zip

C.3 Partnership Opportunities

While difficult, it may be useful to coordinate ordinances with other water agencies in a region. Exact ordinance language will likely not be the same, but having similar restrictions in place at the same time can make regional messaging more effective and limit customer confusion over water waste prohibitions.

D. Appendix A – Sample Water Waste Definitions

Below is actual language from a wide variety of current California water waste ordinances. These are offered solely to illustrate the range of possibilities a jurisdiction might consider when revising its water waste ordinance. This appendix is not intended as a “model” or template, simply as a source.

D.1 Preamble

  1. Continual Water-Use Practices: More severe effects of a water shortage are often brought about due to wasteful use of water in times of sufficient supply. The use of water shall be done in an efficient manner, in order to eliminate unnecessary water use where possible. For this reason, certain water-use practices shall be prescribed.
  2. The State Legislature has found, and the City Council concurs that: (1) The waters of the State are of limited supply and are subject to ever increasing demands; (2) The continuation of California’s economic prosperity is dependent on the availability of adequate supplies of water for future uses; (3) It is the policy of the State to promote the conservation and efficient use of water and to prevent the waste of this valuable resource; (4) Landscapes are essential to the quality of life in California by providing areas for active and passive recreation and as an enhancement to the environment by cleaning air and water, preventing erosion, offering fire protection, and replacing ecosystems lost to development; (5) Landscape design, installation, maintenance, and management can and should be water efficient; and (6) Article X, Section 2 of the California Constitution specifies that the right to use water is limited to the amount reasonably required for the beneficial use to be served, and the right does not and shall not extend to waste or unreasonable method of use of water.

D.2 Outdoor Restrictions

  1. No customer shall use potable water to irrigate any lawn and/or ornamental landscape area using a landscape irrigation system or a watering device that is not continuously attended unless such irrigation is limited to no more than fifteen (15) minutes watering per day per station.
  2. No person shall use water to irrigate any lawn and/or ornamental landscape area in a manner that causes or allows excessive flow or runoff onto an adjoining sidewalk, driveway, street, alley, gutter or ditch.
  3. No person shall use water to wash down hard or paved surfaces, including, but not limited to, sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking areas, tennis courts, patios or alleys, except when necessary to alleviate safety or sanitary hazards, and then only by use of a hand-held bucket or similar container, a hand-held hose equipped with a positive self-closing water shut-off device, or a low-volume, high-pressure cleaning machine (e.g., “water broom”) equipped to recycle any water used.
  4. No person shall permit excessive use, loss or escape of water through breaks, leaks or other malfunctions in the person’s plumbing or distribution system for any period of time after such escape of water should have reasonably been discovered and corrected and in no event more than seven days after receiving notice of the condition from the City.
  5. No customer shall use potable water to irrigate lawns, groundcover, shrubbery or other ornamental landscape material during a rainfall event, or for 2 days thereafter.
  6. By July 1, 2012, all landscape irrigation systems connected to dedicated landscape meters shall include rain sensors that automatically shut off such systems during periods of rain or include evapotranspiration systems that schedule irrigation based on climatic conditions.
  7. No customer shall operate a water fountain or other decorative water feature that does not use a recirculating water system.
  8. No customer shall use water to clean a vehicle, including but not limited to any automobile, truck, van, bus, motorcycle, boat or trailer, whether motorized or not, except by use of a hand-held bucket or similar container or a hand-held hose equipped with a positive self-closing water shut-off nozzle or device.
  9. No customer shall install a new single pass cooling system in a building or premises requesting new water service. This provision shall not prevent the replacement or repair of single pass cooling systems that were installed prior to December 31, 2009.
  10. No customer shall use water from any fire hydrant for any purpose other than fire suppression or emergency aid without first: (1) requesting and posting the appropriate fees at the City, and (2) obtaining a hydrant meter to record all water consumption for a specified project. Absent a meter, water theft and meter tampering fees will be applied as appropriate.
  11. The filling of “slip-n-slides” is prohibited.
  12. Lawns and landscaping shall be watered no more than ten (10) minutes per watering station or cycle per day.
  13. No lawn, landscape, or other turf areas shall be watered or irrigated between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  14. Emptying and refilling swimming pools and commercial spas is prohibited except to prevent structural damage and/or to provide for the public health and safety.
  15. Filling or refilling of private swimming pools, spas, ponds and artificial lakes is prohibited between 10:00 a.m. and one hour before sunset.
  16. Swimming pools and spas should be equipped with covers to minimize evaporation and such covers should be used not less than five days a week unless the facility is in use.
  17. Overfilling of any pond, pool or fountain which results in water discharging to waste.
  18. There shall be no installation or use of outdoor evaporative cooling systems, often referred to as “mist coolers”.
  19. Prohibition of draining of swimming pools more than once every three years, except for structural repairs or to comply with public health standards determined by the County Health Officer. Residents with private swimming pools shall file a written application for a permit prior to draining their pools with the Water Division Manager. The application shall include the results of a pool water test conducted by an independent testing organization which shows a cyanuric acid level above 100 parts per million, total dissolved solids over 2,500 parts per million, or calcium over 450 parts per million, or stating the nature and duration of repairs to be made and the date on which the pool will be drained.
  20. No person shall use water through a hose, including pressure-washing, to clean the exterior of any building or structure unless such hose is equipped with a shut-off nozzle.

D.3 Commercial Restrictions

  1. All new commercial conveyor car wash systems in commercial car washing facilities shall be operational recirculating water systems.
  2. All commercial conveyor car wash systems in commercial car washing facilities shall be operational recirculating water systems, or the customer must have secured an exemption from this requirement pursuant to Section 14.16.100.
  3. Customers operating eating or drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, bars, or other public places where food or drinks are sold, served, or offered for sale, shall not provide drinking water to any person unless expressly requested by the person.
  4. Customers operating hotel, motel, and other commercial lodging establishments shall provide persons the option of not having towels and linen laundered daily. Commercial lodging establishments must prominently display notice of this option.
  5. All new washing machines installed in commercial and/or coin-operated laundries shall be ENERGY STAR® and CEE Tier III qualified. By _______, all washing machines installed in commercial and/or coin-operated laundries shall be ENERGY STAR® and CEE Tier III qualified.
  6. Construction Site Requirements. The requirements of this subsection apply to persons engaged in construction activities. A permittee’s refusal or failure to comply with these requirements shall constitute grounds for revocation of a construction or grading permit. In addition, the City may withhold occupancy and inspections until such time as the permit holder has complied.
    1. No person shall use potable water for soil compaction or dust control in a construction site where there is an available and feasible source of recycled water or nonpotable water approved by the Department of Public Health and appropriate for such use.
    2. No person shall operate a hose within a construction site that is not equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle; provided, that such devices are available for the size and type of hose in use.
  7. Commercial Kitchen Requirements. No customer may operate a commercial kitchen that does not comply with the following requirements.
    1. Water-Conserving Pre-Rinse Kitchen Spray Valves. New or remodeled commercial kitchens shall be equipped with water-conserving kitchen spray valves. By January 1, 2010, all commercial kitchens shall either remove all existing kitchen spray valves or retrofit kitchen spray valves with water-conserving kitchen spray valves.
    2. Best-Available Water-Conserving Technology. New or remodeled commercial kitchens shall ensure that all water-using equipment in new or remodeled commercial kitchens uses the best-available, water-conserving technology.
    3. No customer operating a commercial kitchen shall defrost food or allow food to be defrosted with running water.
    4. Scoop sinks shall be set at minimum water flow at all times of use and shut off during non-working hours.
    5. When hosing or washing kitchen or garbage areas or other areas for sanitary reasons as required by the Department of Health, hoses shall be equipped with positive self-closing nozzles.
    6. All commercial kitchens with dishwashing facilities shall encourage the activity of scraping food waste into a garbage can rather than using a garbage disposal.
    7. Defrosting food with running water is prohibited.

D.4 Exceptions

  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to landscape irrigation systems that exclusively use very low flow drip type irrigation systems in which no emitter produces more than two gallons of water per hour or weather-based controllers or stream rotor sprinklers that meet a seventy (70) percent efficiency standard.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to registered local, state, or federal historical sites.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to mined-land reclamation projects that do not require a permanent irrigation system.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to ecological restoration projects that do not require a permanent irrigation system.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to cemeteries.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to plant collections open as part of botanical gardens and arboretums open to the public.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to golf courses.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to water used for public health and safety.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to new landscaping for 21 days after it has been installed.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to water used for fire suppression.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to users of recycled water.
  • The restrictions on landscape irrigation do not apply to those utilizing a rainwater storage system.
  • The restrictions on water use do not apply to water used to meet the medical needs of the customer.
  • The restrictions on water use do not apply to the necessary use of water for the routine maintenance and/or repair of water distribution facilities, residential and commercial plumbing and existing landscape irrigation systems.

D.5 Example Penalties

Penalties typically begin with a warning and may advance to fines or termination of service.
Example: City of Sacramento[115]

  • First notice of violation – Written notice of violation, no fine is issued
  • Second notice of violation – $50 fine, which can be waived by attending a Water Conservation Workshop
  • Third notice of violation – $200 fine
  • Fourth notice violation, and each subsequent notice of violation – $1000 fine


Example: Alameda County Water District[116]

  • First notice of violation – written warning that identifies the wasteful use of water, requests that the customer stop the practice, and informs the customers about applying for an exemption.
  • Follow-up visit and inspection – if wasteful use is still occurring issue a second written warning and charge the customer for a field service visit.
  • If utility personnel observe continued waste of water that violates the mandatory restrictions more than 48 hours after the on-site notification, it shall be deemed to be a willful violation of the mandatory restrictions on water use, and the General Manager may authorize termination of water service.
  • Restoring water service: the reconnection charge established in the Districts Rate and Fee Schedule must be paid before the District will restore the service.


Example: City of Long Beach[117]

  • Ordinance established ‘Prohibited Use of Water’ (PUoW) charges;
  • Prior to declared Stage 1 Water Shortage declaration, the PUoW Base Charge shall be $150.
  • After a declared Stage 1 Water Shortage declaration, the PUoW Base Charge shall be $200.
  • After a declared Stage 2 Water Shortage declaration, the PUoW Base Charge shall be $250.
  • After a declared Stage 3 Water Shortage declaration, the PUoW Base Charge shall be determined by the Board.
  • The PUoW charge shall equal the number of Notices of Violation multiplied by the Base Charge.


The complete Jumpstart Water Shortage Toolkit includes:

  1. – Model Water Shortage Contingency Plans
  2. – Water Waste Ordinances and Enforcement Primer
  3. – Water Shortage Pricing Primer
  4. – Water Loss and Supply Alternatives Primer
  5. – Customer Programs and Communication/Outreach Primer
  6. – Local Water Supply Fact Sheet
  7. – Water Use and Loss Awareness Resources
  8. – Water School Curriculum
  9. – Water Resource Funding Primer


Tools are available to view or download at http://www.cuwcc.org The Council is grateful to the following individuals for helping Council staff to develop, edit and review the Jumpstart Water Shortage Toolkit: Russell Frink, Charlie Pike, Sharon Fraser, William Granger and Toby Goddard. The Toolkit was made possible by the financial assistance of the California Department of Water Resources and Council membership dues.

Footnotes

  1. A.B. 1881 (Laird), adding Gov. Code §§ 65591 et seq. (2006); see Civ. Code § 4735 (2014); see also Water Code § 535 (2006).
  2. Water Code §§ 10608 et seq. (2010).
  3. Water Code §§ 10620 et seq. (2010).
  4. Gov. Code § 65595.
  5. Water Code § 10608.20.
  6. Water Code §§ 10620, 10621 (2010).
  7. A majority of the ordinances surveyed for this report can found on the Department of Water Resources website. Department of Water Resources, ftp://ftp.water.ca.gov/Model-Water-Efficient-Landscape-Ordinance/Local-Ordinances/ (last visited Sept. 15, 2014). For additional resources, including ordinances not listed in the previous source, contact council staff via the CUWCC’s website, http://www.cuwcc.org/.
  8. For convenience, this memo will consider both of these terms as within the scope of water “waste” ordinances, even if “wasteful” and “non-essential” uses may differ.
  9. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 23, §§ 864, 865 (2014). On March 17, 2015, the SWRCB extended and added to its 2014 emergency regulations. The additional restrictions prohibit the application of potable water to outdoor landscapes during and up to 48 hours after measurable rainfall and the serving of drinking water other than upon request in eating or drinking establishments.
  10. Not all jurisdictions have an ordinance that prohibits water waste. See, e.g., City of Susanville, Municipal Code § 13.08.070 (2005) (although “[a]ny person who wastes, causes, permits or allows to be wasted any water …shall have all water service disconnected,” there is not a separate definition of “waste” anywhere in the code). See also, e.g., City of San Bernardino, Municipal Code § 17.06.010 et seq. (2009). In San Bernardino, homeowners can be fined for visible dead landscaping, even if it results from voluntary conservation. § 8.27.10 (1996). However, homes registered in the Water Wise program are given a temporary exemption from these provisions. § 17.06.010.
  11. See, e.g., City of Elk Grove, Municipal Code § 14.10.230 (2010) (an example of an ordinance that prevents runoff or overspray onto impermeable surfaces).
  12. See, e.g., City of Oxnard, Municipal Code § 22-136(B)(3) (2009).
  13. See, e.g., City of Industry, Municipal Code § 13.03.090(E) (2010) (providing technical requirements for outdoor irrigation equipment).
  14. See, e.g., City of Petaluma, Municipal Code § 15.17.070(2009) (requiring evaporative covers for all outdoor pools).
  15. See, e.g., City of Turlock, Municipal Code § 6-7-302(c) (1991) (the City of Turlock permits wading pools, but does not allow “slip-and-slides”).
  16. A.B. 1881 (Laird), adding Gov. Code §§ 65591 et seq. (2006). See generally, http://www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/landscapeordinance/. See also infra, § 1.4.3 Planning Restrictions.
  17. The plumbing fixtures typically addressed are toilets, faucets, and shower heads. See, e.g., City of Beverly Hills, Municipal Code §§ 9-4-100 et seq. (2009). Examples of the efficiency standards for each type of these fixtures are: 1.6 gallons per flush for toilets, 2.2 gallons per minute for faucets, and 2.5 gallons per minute for shower heads. § 9-4-103.
  18. See, e.g., City of Beverly Hills, Municipal Code § 9-4-104.
  19. See, e.g., City of Beverly Hills, Municipal Code §§ 9-4-106, -107.
  20. See, e.g., City of Los Angeles, Municipal Code § 122.03 (1998).
  21. See, e.g., City of Santa Clarita, Municipal Code § 9.38.035(3)(a) (2005).
  22. See, e.g., City of Brea, Municipal Code §§ 13.20.060(H), (I) (2009).
  23. See, e.g., City of Fountain Valley, Municipal Code §§ 14.18.040(j), (k), (o), (r) (detailing strict permanent conservation requirements that apply to commercial water users). See also, e.g., City of Newport Beach, Municipal Code §§ 14.16.040(N), (Q) (2009).
  24. See, e.g., City of Fountain Valley, Municipal Code § 14.18.100 (2009).
  25. See, e.g., City of Pasadena, Municipal Code §§ 13.10.065, .067 (2009) (fines are doubled for non-residential customers with water meters larger than one-and-a-half inches).
  26. See, e.g., City of Antioch, Municipal Code § 6-10.05 (2009). In addition to restrictions on water waste, if a customer uses more than 21 units, and has not achieved a 15% reduction from actual usage during the years of 2005 – 2007 (or from 20 units if their service began after 2007), then a surcharge of four times the quantity charge will be applied to water used in excess of their historical use. See also, e.g., City of Gilroy, Municipal Code § 27.76 (creating a daily use allocation for each customer and a fine schedule for exceeding that allocation).
  27. See, e.g., City of Chino, Municipal Code § 13.05.105 (2009) (exempting single-family residential customers that use less than 224 gallons-per-day from water waste restrictions).
  28. See, e.g., City of Aliso Viejo, Municipal Code § 7.30.030(C)(5) (2009).
  29. See, e.g., City of Pasadena, Municipal Code § 13.22.020 (2010).
  30. See, e.g., City of Gilroy, Municipal Code § 27.98(a)(3) (2014); see also, e.g., City of Menlo Park, Municipal Code § 14.44.020(F)(5) (2010).
  31. See, e.g., City of Anaheim, Municipal Code § 10.19.020.0204 (2009).
  32. See, e.g., City of Dinuba, Municipal Code § 13.05.050 (1989).
  33. See, e.g., City of Santa Monica, Municipal Code § 7.16.020(f) (2008).
  34. See, e.g., City of Sacramento, Municipal Code § 13.04.880 (2009).
  35. See, e.g., City of American Canyon, Municipal Code § 13.04.060 (2009).
  36. See, e.g., City of Buena Park, Municipal Code § 13.28.050(C) (2009).
  37. See, e.g., City of American Canyon, Municipal Code § 13.04.060 (2009).
  38. For example, no ordinance was found that forbade people from taking long showers or running half-full loads of dishes or laundry. Aside from the challenges of enforcing such an ordinance, public resistance to such behavioral mandates would likely preclude their enactment in the first place. Instead of mandating such indoor restrictions, water service providers appeal to personal values and social norms to try to achieve the desired indoor reductions.
  39. Town of Apple Valley, Municipal Code § 06.40.040(1) (1990).
  40. City of Chino Hills, Municipal Code § 13.08.040(A)(3) (2008).
  41. See, e.g., City of Huntington Beach, Municipal Code § 14.18.110 (2014) (reserving the authority to apply several types penalties, in addition to the maximum fine allowed under state law, on a customer’s first violation).
  42. See, e.g., City of Delano, Municipal Code § 13.04.180 (2008); see also, e.g., City of Commerce, Municipal Code §§ 6.20.020 – 6.20.070 (2010) (reserving only the authority to issue a warning or to issue a $100 fine).
  43. See, e.g., City of Orange, Municipal Code §§ 13.04.160 – 13.04.170 (1996) (allowing the Water Manager to discontinue service to any customer that “wastefully or negligently use[s] water” within 5 days of notification).
  44. See, e.g., City of Pasadena, Municipal Code §§ 13.10.065, 13.10.067.
  45. See, e.g., City of Fullerton, Municipal Code § 12.06.120 (1991).
  46. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 23, § 864.
  47. Water Code § 377 (1983).
  48. See, e.g., City of Chino Hills, Municipal Code § 13.08.100 (2008) (an example of a typical fine schedule).
  49. See, e.g., City of Sacramento, Municipal Code § 13.04.890(D) (2009) (doubling fines during drought).
  50. See, e.g., City of Manhattan Beach, Municipal Code § 7.44.050 (2009); see also, e.g., City of Monterey Park, Municipal Code §§ 14.08.100, 1.08.010(A) (2009).
  51. See, e.g., City of Signal Hill, Municipal Code § 10.03.100(E) (2009); see also, e.g., City of San Juan Capistrano, Municipal Code § 6-12.08(a)(9) (2009).
  52. See, e.g., City of Manhattan Beach, Municipal Code § 7.44.050(B).
  53. See, e.g., City of Arcadia, Municipal Code § 7553.9.1 (1995).
  54. See, e.g., City of Santa Ana, Municipal Code § 39-112(2) (2009).
  55. See, e.g., City of Seal Beach, Municipal Code § 9.35.170(B)(2).
  56. See, e.g., id. at (B)(3).
  57. See, e.g., City of Fullerton, Municipal Code § 12.06.120(A)(3) (2008).
  58. See, e.g., City of Garden Grove, Municipal Code § 14.40.060 (2012).
  59. See, e.g., id.; see also, e.g., City of Fullerton, Municipal Code § 12.06.120(A)(3).
  60. See, e.g., City of Garden Grove, Municipal Code § 14.40.060 (instituting a $50 flat fee).
  61. See, e.g., City of Folsom, Municipal Code § 13.26.170(B)(3)(a) (2009) (permitting installation of a meter on any flat rate service connection at the expense of the property owner following a violation during a drought stage); see also, e.g., City of Hanford, Municipal Code § 13.04.150(B)(3) (1995) (mandating installation of a water meter on non-metered properties following a third violation).
  62. See, e.g., City of Los Angeles, Municipal Code § 121.10(A) (2008) (providing enforcement authority to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power).
  63. See, e.g., City of Ione, Municipal Code § 18.16.250 (2010); see also, e.g., City of Ukiah, Municipal Code § 3615 (1977); see also, e.g., Rio Vista, Municipal Code 13.04.190 (1977).
  64. City of Brea, Municipal Code § 13.20.120(C) (2009) (requiring the City of Brea to establish a reporting hotline that allows residents to report observed water waste).
  65. City of Palo Alto, Municipal Code § 12.32.020 (1989).
  66. See, e.g., Report Leaks/Water Waste, City of Fresno, http://www.fresno.gov/Government/DepartmentDirectory/ PublicUtilities/Watermanagement/Conservation/reportwaterwaste.htm (last visited Sept. 18, 2014); see also, e.g., Report Water Waste, East Bay Municipal Utility District, https://ebmud.com/report-water-waste, (last visited Oct. 20, 2014).
  67. See, e.g., Estero Municipal Improvement District Code §§ 8.70.070, 8.80.050 (2010).
  68. See, e.g., City of Malibu, Municipal Code § 9.22.060(B) (2009).
  69. See, e.g., City of San Mateo, Municipal Code § 27.71.130 (1989) (requiring that 90% of plants used in newly installed landscaping be an approved drought-resistant variety).
  70. See, e.g., id. at § 27.71.120(c) (2009) (limiting turf to 25% of total area on landscapes greater than 1000 sq./ft.); see also, e.g., City of Del Mar, Municipal Code § 21.060.040(E)(1) (1992) (limiting turf to 15% of lot area).
  71. See, e.g., Estero Municipal Improvement District Code § 8.70.070 (2010).
  72. See, e.g., City of Del Mar, Municipal Code § 21.060.050 (1992).
  73. See, e.g., City of Redding, Municipal Code § 16.070.040 – .60 (2010).
  74. See, e.g., City of Menlo Park, Municipal Code §§ 12.44.040 – .090 (2010).
  75. See Denis Cuff & Jeremy Thomas, Tri-Valley Hits High Water Marks: Cities Top Drought Conservation Lists, Contra Costa Times (Sept. 24, 2014), www.contracostatimes.com/contra-costa-times/ci_26590102/tri-valley-hits-high-water-marks-cities-top.
  76. City of Fountain Valley, Municipal Code § 14.18.040(q) (2009).
  77. Town of Apple Valley, Municipal Code § 06.40.030(B)(18) (1990).
  78. City of Turlock, Municipal Code § 6-7-201(a) (1991).
  79. See, e.g., City of Sacramento, Municipal Code § 13.04.890(A)(2) (2009); see also, e.g., Robert Wilde, Drought Update: Water Abusers Sent to ‘Water School’ in Santa Cruz, Breitbart News (Aug. 10, 2014), http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-California/2014/08/10/Drought-Update-Water-Abusers-Sent-to-Water-School-in-Santa-Cruz.
  80. See, e.g., City of Covina, Municipal Code §§ 13.06.050 – 13.06.080 (2009); see also, e.g., City of Cloverdale, Municipal Code § 13.05.050 (2014).
  81. See, e.g., City of El Monte, Municipal Code § 14.02.020 (2009).
  82. See, e.g., City of Covina, Municipal Code § 13.06.050.
  83. See, e.g., City of Bell Gardens, Municipal Code §§ 11.03.070 – 11.03.090 (2009).
  84. See, e.g., City of Calistoga, Municipal Code §§ 13.04.330 – 13.04.370 (1991).
  85. See, e.g., City of Bell Gardens, Municipal Code § 11.03.100 (2009).
  86. See, e.g., City of Santa Cruz, Municipal Code §§ 16.01.060 – 16.01.110 (2010).
  87. For a no-exceptions ban on outdoor watering during a severe drought stage, see City of Burbank, Municipal Code § 8-2-304(F)(1) (2014).
  88. See, e.g., City of West Covina, Municipal Code § 23-325(b)(1) (1991).
  89. See, e.g., City of Chino Hills, Municipal Code § 13.08.090 (2008).
  90. See, e.g., City of Roseville, Municipal Code § 14.09.110(c)(2) (2014).
  91. See, e.g., City of Simi Valley, Municipal Code § 6-11.107 (b)(1)(v) (2009).
  92. See, e.g., City of San Diego, Municipal Code § 67.3808(b)(1)(2011).
  93. See, e.g., City of Hermosa Beach, Municipal Code § 8.56.100(1)(f) (2010).
  94. See, e.g., City of Dinuba, Municipal Code § 13.05.060(C)(5) (1989).
  95. See, e.g., City of Livermore, Municipal Code § 13.26.110(D) (2011).
  96. See, e.g., City of Riverside, Municipal Code § 14.22.070(B)(2) (2011).
  97. See infra § 3.2.1.4.
  98. See, e.g., City of Santa Clarita, Municipal Code § 9.38.035(3)(a) (2005).
  99. See supra § 3.1.1.2.
  100. Compare City of Chino, Municipal Code § 13.05.070(A), 13.05.080(B) (2009) with City of Newport Beach, Municipal Code §§ 14.16.040(L), (Q) (2009).
  101. See, e.g., City of Turlock, Municipal Code § 6-7-405(f)(2) (1992).
  102. See, e.g., City of San Diego, Municipal Code § 67.3804(f) (“industrial manufacturing, processing, or research and development is exempt from the water use restrictions during Drought Response Levels 1 and 2 [out of 4], if . . . the business uses reclaimed water on its premises . . . and the business participates in all applicable City water conservation programs that are considered BMPs by the CUWCC.”)
  103. See, e.g., City of Ukiah, Municipal Code § 3606(A) (1977) (limiting single family use to 50 gallons per day per permanent resident).
  104. See, e.g., City of Benicia, Municipal Code § 13.35.060 (2012).
  105. The percentage of mandatory water use reductions called for from each customer under such ordinances may increase, for example, from 20% during a Stage I Drought to 40% during a Stage III Drought. See, e.g., id.
  106. See, e.g., City of Del Mar, Municipal Code §§ 21.70.130, 21.70.140 (2009).
  107. Irvine Ranch Water District, Water Regulations § 12.6 (2012).
  108. See, e.g., City of American Canyon, Municipal Code § 13.14.100 (2009).
  109. Irvine Ranch Water District, Water Regulations § 15.5 (2012).
  110. See, e.g., City of Buena Park, Municipal Code § 13.28.060 (2009) (listing per se violations that constitute a violation of the ordinance); see also, e.g., City of Camarillo, Municipal Code § 14.12.030 (2009).
  111. See, e.g., City of Rio Vista, Municipal Code § 13.04.190(A) (1977) (“[t]he city police department shall ascertain if waste is being committed”); see also, e.g., City of Arcata, Municipal Code § 7741 (1979). (“[w]here water is wastefully or negligently used on a customer’s premises, seriously affecting the general service, the Public Works Department may discontinue the service . . .”).
  112. See, e.g., City of Burbank, Municipal Code § 8-2-304 (2014); see also, e.g., City of Santa Monica, Municipal Code § 7.16.020 (2008) (listing specific definitions of waste).
  113. See, e.g., City of Orange, Municipal Code § 13.04.160 (1996) (“[i]t is unlawful for a customer to wastefully or negligently use water or to otherwise detrimentally impact the service to other customers”); see also, e.g., City of Belmont, Municipal Code § 25.5-19 (1981) (“[u]nreasonable use of water is prohibited”).
  114. Compare City of Wheatland, Municipal Code § 13.48.010(C) (1984) (“[t]he willful waste of water supplied by the city is prohibited”) with City of Roseville, Municipal Code § 14.09.030 (2014) (listing several activities that qualify as a waste of water).
  115. portal.cityofsacramento.org/Utilities/Conservation/FAQs#q9 Last accessed April 3, 2015.
  116. http://www.acwd.org/DocumentCenter/View/631 Last accessed April 3, 2015.
  117. http://www.lbwater.org/conservation Last accessed April 3, 2015.
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  1. Local districts are not empowered to enact ordinances, they can, however promulgate regulations. For convenience in this tool we use the term ordinance to refer to all of these actions.
  2. For Council members, the Memorandum of Understanding sets forth “Best Management Practices” (“BMPs”) that are designed to implement water conservation goals. BMP 1.1(A)(2) commits water supply providers to “enact, enforce, or support legislation, regulations, ordinances, or terms of service that prohibit water waste.” BMP 1.1(A)(2), available at http://www.cuwcc.org/Resources/Memorandum-of-Understanding/Exhibit-1-BMP-Definitions-Schedules-and-Requirements/BMP-1-Utility-Operations-Programs. Non-Council members who are required to file Urban Water Management Plans will find the survey useful in reporting on their Demand Management Measures. See Water Code §§ 10611.5 & 10631(f)(1)(m) (2010). Similarly, those water service providers who seek state financing must also report on their implementation of those same demand management measures. Water Code § 10631.5 (repealed effective July 1, 2016).