IMPERIAL COUNTY – California Gov. Jerry Brown announced legislation this week that would authorize penalties of up to $10,000 per violations against those found to have wasted water and give local authorities new powers to enforce conservation requirements.
Brown announced the new legislation following a meeting with a number of California mayors to discuss the state’s drought response.
The proposed legislation will include a new penalty of up to $10,000 per violation, which represents a sharp increase over the $500 per day maximum set in last year’s drought legislation.
In addition, the legislation will allow wholesale and retail water agencies as well as city and county governments to enforce local and state restrictions. It will also deputize staff to issue citations, warnings and penalties – speeding up the infraction process.
Any fines levied by local authorities would be used for local conservation efforts under the proposed legislation, according to the governor’s office.
The governor also said he has directed his staff and state agencies to look for ways to streamline the environmental review process for local water agencies pursuing projects that could increase water supplies with limited environmental impacts.
“These measures will strengthen the ability of local officials to build new water projects and ensure that water is not wasted,” Brown said in a statement. “As this drought stretches on, we’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to help communities save more water.”
Tuesday’s proposals follow Brown’s announcement earlier this month of mandatory 25 percent statewide reductions in urban water use, the first such order in state history. The determination of how to achieve that reduction was left up to individual water agencies, with each agency assigned a target reduction based on their current per-capita water use.
Agencies that fail to make the reductions could face fines of up to $10,000 per day, according to state officials.
After two dry winters California’s mountain snowpack, which supplies much of the state’s fresh drinking water, is at historic lows. As of the beginning of April, statewide snowpack was at only five percent of the historic average. The previous historic lows were 25 percent in 2014 and 1977, state officials said