On August 14, 2014, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered the investor-owned water utilities under its jurisdiction to provide notice to their customers of mandatory water use restrictions and potential fines outlined in the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Water Board) “Emergency Regulation for Statewide Urban Water Conservation,” which went into effect on July 29, 2014. The water utilities were directed to publish the emergency regulation in their local newspapers and on their websites and follow up with a direct notice via a bill insert or other means.
The State Water Board’s emergency regulation prohibits four activities for customers of all public water systems:
- The use of drinking water for outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures;
- The use of a hose without a shut-off nozzle to dispense drinking water to wash a motor vehicle;
- The application of drinking water to driveways and sidewalks; and
- The use of drinking water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, except where the water is part of a recirculating system.
Violation of these prohibited actions is punishable by a fine of up to $500 for each day during which the violation occurs. However, because the CPUC-regulated water companies are not authorized to issue citations under the State Water Board’s regulation, they will not be able to impose fines on customers. Rather, the CPUC instructed water companies to assist in assuring compliance by working with local law enforcement or public agencies authorized to enforce the mandatory restrictions.
“This Resolution orders the CPUC-regulated water utilities to implement water conservation measures consistent with the State Water Board’s mandate, and the CPUC will closely monitor the water utilities’ progress in encouraging water conservation and consider further action if warranted,” said CPUC Commissioner Catherine J. K. Sandoval. “As part of their conservation efforts, CPUC-regulated water utilities can take steps to monitor and promptly inform customers about leaks and to work with customers to stop leaks and water waste, consistent with best practices being implemented by other California water utilities. Californians should take all feasible steps to reduce water use, including curbing outdoor water use, during the drought crisis.”