San Jose Adopts 30% Water Reduction Goal

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San Jose officials on Tuesday unanimously voted to raise water conservation goals to 30 percent, and Mayor Sam Liccardo said it's time to move past just educating residents on how to save water and bring out real penalties for waste 

How penalties would be doled out is the topic for further discussion, Liccardo said, but he added that violators could be found through a partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which tracks use but does not have the ability to impose fines.

Currently, the city can fine abusers $160, but that is not imposed until after visits from both water district and city staff to encourage the person to be more mindful and offer water-saving tips, said Jennie Loft, a spokeswoman for the city. Loft said no one has ever been fined.

"Education continues to be how we approach this," said Loft.

While the state has a 25 percent reduction goal, that number varies among communities depending on how well they already save water. In San Jose, the goal is 20 percent, and the state is serious: Cities and water districts that don't hit the target can be fined $10,000 a day.

And while San Jose residents have so far cut down by only 13 percent since 2013, Liccardo said 30 percent is a good target.

New rules adopted on Tuesday limit watering of lawns at homes and businesses to two days a week. They would ban topping off swimming pools with more than one foot of water and prohibit residents from installing new landscaping unless it features drought-resistant plants or drip irrigation. Rules also forbid washing vehicles with potable water, except at commercial car wash facilities with a water capture system.

However, the new rules would not apply to landscape installations already approved by the city.

Liccardo added that the 30 percent reduction and twice-a-week watering are in line with what the Santa Clara Valley Water District set as goals last month, and it helps to send the public a consistent message.

"We need to work together as a region, and it's important that the water district and city be on the same page," Liccardo said.

Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, along with three council colleagues, called for more drought relief incentive programs, such as replacing lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping and gray-water conversion programs.

Penalties for water overuse may become more common after a court ruling Monday, which found that a tiered water rate -- increasing the cost of water as usage climbs -- is unconstitutional. That could affect two-thirds of water providers in the state but has no bearing on fines. City staff said at Tuesday's meeting that they will bring forward a proposal to increase water abuse fines to $500.

Liccardo said that residents need to realize conservation is a communal goal.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

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