There will be no more warnings for those who violate Modesto’s drought watering restrictions.
Utilities director Larry Parlin said the city has started issuing citations – which start at $150 and top out at $500 – and skipping the warnings because it keeps falling short of the state mandate to reduce its water use by 36 percent.
“We are not getting the savings,” he said. “It’s apparent when driving around certain parts of town that some people are not doing what they are supposed to do” because their lawns are green.
The state mandate went into effect June 1. Since then Modesto has reduced its water use by 34 percent in June, 32 percent in July, 29 percent in August and 27 percent so far in September. The savings are based on comparing water use to the same month in 2013.
The city had been issuing two courtesy notices, or warnings, to water customers before issuing citations. Parlin said the city stopped issuing the warnings Tuesday. Citations start at $150 for a first offense, rise to $250 for a second offense and are $500 for each subsequent offense.
He said Modesto could restrict outdoor watering to one day a week in October if the water savings numbers don’t improve. Modesto instituted twice-a-week watering May 1. Before that, homeowners, apartment buildings, shopping centers and other water customers could water their lawns and landscaping three days a week.
He said Modesto must demonstrate to the state that it is serious about saving water or the state could fine it for not meeting the state mandate. “The state could say, ‘You are not meeting the goals, so what are you doing to get to 36 percent?’ The only thing left to do is beef up enforcement.”
Parlin said Modesto only started issuing citations (after giving out two courtesy warnings) in about the past month. City officials have said they needed time to set up a system to issue and collect the fines and an appeal process for customers who challenge their citations.
Parlin estimated Modesto has collected a few hundred dollars in citations in the past month while other cities have collected tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
The state is calling for a statewide reduction in urban water use of 25 percent to deal with a fourth year of drought. It is imposing differing reductions among cities based on their previous water use. Many Northern San Joaquin Valley cities have to reduce their water use by more than 25 percent.
Parlin said Modesto continues to send out workers to conduct water patrols in the early morning and evenings, looking for water customers who are violating the drought restrictions by watering on the wrong day or overwatering. The patrols are being conducted in the city and the surrounding communities, such as Del Rio and Salida, that use city water.
More information about the restrictions is available at www.modestogov.com.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316