Water is a precious natural resource important to our health, community and the quality of life in the Central Valley.
Modesto is stepping up its enforcement of its drought restrictions by sending water cops out in the early morning to check for homeowners, businesses and others watering their lawns and other landscaping when they shouldn’t or wasting water because of malfunctioning sprinklers.
The early morning patrols started Monday and the water cops issued violation notices to about 80 people, Water Systems Manager Dave Savidge said. Modesto issues notices before issuing citations. The citations are $150 for the first, $250 for a second and $500 for each subsequent violation.
Savidge said about a half-dozen city water services employees are starting their day at 3 a.m. and spending a few hours checking for violations before resuming their regular duties. He said the water cops will be out every morning on weekdays, and there will be patrols on weekends. He said Modesto is looking at adding nighttime patrols.
Modesto is working on targeting its enforcement. Savidge said the information technology department is developing a tool to identify customers using more water than the city believes is typical for their circumstances. The water cops can then check to see if these customers are complying with the restrictions. City officials have said about half of Modesto’s water goes to lawns and other outdoor uses.
The increased enforcement comes as Modesto went to Stage 2 of its drought contingency plan May 1. Stage 2 reduces the number of days residents can water outdoors from three to two, bans outdoor watering from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and increases the fines. More information, such as which days residents can water, is available at www.modestogov.com/pwd/water/conservation.
Modesto conducted a public outreach campaign on the Stage 2 restrictions before increasing enforcement Monday. The restrictions apply to all of Modesto’s water customers, including those in surrounding communities, such as Del Rio and Salida.
Modesto must reduce its water consumption by 36 percent as part of California’s effort to reduce urban water use by 25 percent statewide. The state instituted differing reduction levels among the cities based on how much water they use. The reduction is for drinkable water and is based on 2013 levels.
Savidge said Modesto reduced its water use 19.2 percent in April, compared with April 2013. This reduction preceded the city’s Stage 2 restrictions.
If Modesto can’t save enough water through its Stage 2 restrictions, it will consider adopting its Stage 3 restrictions, which ban outdoor watering, except for the hand watering of trees, bushes and plants. Drip irrigation also is allowed. Modesto officials have said the decision on whether to go to Stage 3 will be based in large part on how much water the city saves this month and in June.
Residents can call (209) 342-2246 to report water waste. They also can call that number if they have questions about the restrictions or want to schedule a free water audit. The audit includes checking sprinklers to ensure they go on at the right time and are not overwatering. Savidge said the city has conducted 50 audits since late April and has an additional 46 scheduled.