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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Facing Fines for CONSERVING Water During Severe Drought

Posted by on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM
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California couple faces fine for brown lawn after complying with water-saving rules

  • Droughtcouple.jpg

    July 17: Michael Korte and his wife Laura Whitney, pose outside their home lawn in Glendora, Calif. The Southern California couple who scaled back watering due to drought received a letter from the city of Glendora warning that they could face fines if they don't get their brown lawn green again.AP

  • Californiadrought.jpg

    July 17: Michael Korte walks on his home brown lawn in Glendora, Calif.AP

  • Californiadrought2.jpg

    July 17: Laura Whitney points to a letter from the city of Glendora at her home in Glendora, Calif. She and her husband are told if they don't revive the lawn they could be hit with up to $500 in fines and possible criminal action.AP

Laura Whitney and her husband, Michael Korte, don't know whether they're being good citizens during a drought or scofflaws.

On the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the threat of $500 fines, the Southern California couple received a letter from their city threatening a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn.

It's brown because of their conservation, which, besides a twice-a-week lawn watering regimen, includes shorter showers and larger loads of laundry.

They're encouraged by the state's new drought-busting, public service slogan: Brown is the new green.

The city of Glendora sees it differently.

"Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green," says the letter, which gives Korte and Whitney 60 days to restore their lawn.

They're among residents caught in the middle of conflicting government messages as the need for conservation clashes with the need to preserve attractive neighborhoods.

"My friends in Los Angeles got these letters warning they could be fined if they water, and I got a letter warning that I could be fined for not watering," Whitney said. "I felt like I was in an alternate universe."

Despite the drought, Californians have increased their water use by 1 percent in May compared with previous years, according to a state survey of water providers. To combat perceived complacency, the state water board voted this week to require water agencies to adopt emergency drought plans and authorized fines of up to $500 a day for water wasters.

The board's chairwoman, Felicia Marcus, said "a brown lawn should be a badge of honor because it shows you care about your community." But several homeowners are reporting that a dried-up lawn instead attracts the wrath of their community.

Homeowners associations can't punish residents for scaling back on landscaping under an executive order signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in April and a bill awaiting his signature. While both measures are silent on fines imposed by local governments, the governor's office condemned moves that punish drought-conscious Californians.

"These efforts to conserve should not be undermined by the short-sighted actions of a few local jurisdictions, who chose to ignore the statewide crisis we face, the farmers and farmworkers losing their livelihoods, the communities facing drinking water shortages and the state's shrinking reservoirs," said Amy Norris, a spokeswoman for the California Environmental Protection Agency, in a written statement.

Local officials say conserving water and maintaining healthy landscaping are not mutually exclusive goals. They caution that even in times of water shortages, residents shouldn't have free rein to drive down property values, and they can use drought-resistant landscaping or turf removal programs to meet local standards.

"During a drought or non-drought, residents have the right to maintain their landscaping the way they want to, so long as it's aesthetically pleasing and it's not blighted," said Al Baker, president of the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers.

Anaheim resident Sandra Tran, 47, said she started installing drought-resistant landscaping after receiving violation notices from Orange County Public Works. She spent more than $600 on the changes as the agency mandated she water and maintain her yard in "a healthy green condition."

Yet as Tran drives home from work, she sees signs flashing on the freeway urging her to conserve water.

"It's almost crazy because one agency is telling you one thing and another is forcing you to do the opposite," she said.

Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown introduced a bill that would have prohibited local governments from imposing fines, but she dropped AB1636 after cities in her district promised not to penalize homeowners for brown lawns during a drought emergency.

Brown was shocked when she heard the practice continued elsewhere in the state, and said she would consider reviving her bill in 2015.

"It seems to me those cities aren't using common sense," Brown said. "It's too bad you need a law."

by on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Sisteract
by Whoopie on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Southern CA is a desert. Folks in that region need to plant drought resistant, native foliage- this means no standard, grass lawn.

I have a tankless water heater (installed by previous owner) which is located quite far from my kitchen. Unless I run the water for several minutes, there is no hot water in my kitchen. My son has advised me to wash the dishes in cold (gross) because of the drought.

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Also, from the looks of that yard- landscaping is not high on their priority list. I wonder if they have had complaints and been cited before the drought?

MelanieJK
by Silver Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:23 PM

They should be very specific about outdoor watering.      When we had a severe drought they started specifying who could water when.    It started with every other day,   then went to every other day but only between midnight and 8am and eventually went to no outdoor watering at all until the drought broke.      One guy got turned in for watering the plants on his deck but was excused because he was using dirty dish and laundry water.      A healthy lawn will go dormant during a drought just like it does in the winter.    Trying to keep it healthy with not enough water is worse than no water in the long run.

latashac
by Bronze Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM

They should water the grass and then if they get fined for it, they should send to bill to te ones that forcred them to use the water. Problem solved.

On a side note, that lawn needs a lot more than water to be asthetically pleasing.

sj2014
by Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM
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Lol.... We are in cali and our lawn looks worse than this. Between the drought and the gophers, you just can't have a decent lawn. Haha....we are a "no kill" haven for the gophers, so they all come here. Little effers!

Quoting Sisteract:

Also, from the looks of that yard- landscaping is not high on their priority list. I wonder if they have had complaints and been cited before the drought?

furbabymum
by Gold Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:30 PM
1 mom liked this

 People need to look into water gardens and permaculture methods. At this point it should be about saving and utilizing whatever moisture they happen to get. Grass is not a good water conservation tool.

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

 I was wondering the same thing. 

Quoting Sisteract:

Also, from the looks of that yard- landscaping is not high on their priority list. I wonder if they have had complaints and been cited before the drought?

 

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:33 PM

 It takes awhile for my water to run hot (and to run cold in the summertime) too.  My husband is going crazy over the brown spots on our lawn, but hey, it's hot and there's a drought.  It'll come back in time.  Thankfully, I'm not worried about being fined for our lawn not being perfect.

Quoting Sisteract:

Southern CA is a desert. Folks in that region need to plant drought resistant, native foliage- this means no standard, grass lawn.

I have a tankless water heater (installed by previous owner) which is located quite far from my kitchen. Unless I run the water for several minutes, there is no hot water in my kitchen. My son has advised me to wash the dishes in cold (gross) because of the drought.

 

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:35 PM
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My county is under drought conditions and the water district has imposed a fine structure, as well  as guidelines for water use. Below are photos that I just snapped from my drought resistant, front yard landscaping. I have not been fined. It can be done.

AtiFreeFalls
by Silver Member on Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:35 PM
Hmm. Here the law is no huge weeds. I know because I have huge weeds (ragweed took over and I have rocks all over the yard, and can't mow, and weed whackers have done nothing). The city zoning enforcer told me to cut the weeds, but they didn't expect me to put in a new lawn. Just cut the weeds. This yard doesn't have weeds. The city needs to STFU.
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