Environment & Science

Desert Water Agency steps up conservation enforcement

File: A gardener walks past a row of sprinklers watering plants and foliage in front of an apartment complex in South Pasadena on Jan. 21, 2014.
File: A gardener walks past a row of sprinklers watering plants and foliage in front of an apartment complex in South Pasadena on Jan. 21, 2014.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

If you live in Palm Springs or certain parts of Cathedral City and aren't following the water conservation rules, you could pay the price. A new ordinance passed by Desert Water Agency on Tuesday outlines a tougher enforcement plan for violators of water conservation regulations imposed by both the utility agency and the state. 

Several community members have made a visible effort to conserve water, while others have not, Desert Water Agency spokeswoman Ashley Hudgens said. 

"They see their neighbors across the street that have very green lawns, and they see them watering when they're not supposed to be and watering the sidewalk, and we want to make sure everyone is doing their part," Hudgens told KPCC. 

The new ordinance allows the Desert Water Agency to immediately impose fines rather than sending violators notice and giving them a window of time to correct their actions.

Fines for residential properties start out at $50 and increase to $250 by the third infraction. The $250 fine can pan out to a daily, costly price for failure to meet the regulations. For non-residential properties, fines range from $100 to $500. 

"Rather than increasing what we're asking people to do, we thought it was just appropriate to make sure that people are actually doing what's being asked of them," Hudgens said.

Desert Water Agency customers are only allowed to water before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They're also not allowed to water during or up to 48 hours after measurable rain. Along with the local restrictions, California state regulations must also be met. 

There are some exceptions, however — like in cases of broken irrigation. Hudgens said that, in this case, customers would receive notice and have three days to fix the problem before fines would be imposed.

Hudgens said that the months of December and January saw low conservation in the agency's jurisdiction.

"We had a tough time meeting the standards imposed by the state and we know our community can do more and can do better," Hudgens said. 

The new ordinance went into effect immediately after it was passed Tuesday. Hudgens said that the 75 people on staff at the Desert Water Agency will have their eyes peeled for violations in the area. She also said fines can't be imposed if they are reported by concerned citizens unless they're verified by water agency staff.  

"Any fines that we collect as a result of this enforcement, those fines will be reintegrated into the conservation program," Hudgens said.

Read the new ordinance here:

DWA Ordinance