Water Hogs Facing Stiff Fines

And County Sees 100% Increase in New Well Applications

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

With meteorologists reporting the hottest first six months in California’s recorded history, the State Water Control Board has put water guzzlers on alert that they face $500 fines if they continue to water excessively, hose down their cars on public streets, or douse their lawns during daylight hours. Exactly how this edict from will be enforced, however, remains an unresolved question for county water czar Tom Fayram, who said he wasn’t entirely clear which agencies would be charged with taking push to shove. “I’m not calling this a stunt,” he said of state board action. “I’d say they’re trying to up the ante.”

That’s because efforts thus far to get state water customers to voluntarily cut back by 20 percent have yet to bear significant fruit. That, it appears, might be changing. City residents managed to cut consumption by 15 percent in the month of June after posting negligible reductions in the months prior. City attorney Ariel Calonne said the $500 fines do not apply in Santa Barbara, because the city has a state-approved water management plan. Still, he said, the city can and will impose fines of its own, some, he said, as high as $500. The city’s new water rates ​— ​charging disproportionately high rates to the biggest water users ​— ​went into effect July 1, and officials are hoping the anticipated sticker shock achieves further reductions. Montecito, home to some of the state’s most extravagant water consumers, has seen conservation cutbacks as high as 40 percent.

As the drought intensifies, Santa Barbara’s Environmental Health department has seen a 100 percent increase in the number of well applications; 114 such applications were filed in the 12-month period leading up to June 2013. In the two years prior, there were 54, and in the year before those two, it was 41. The depth of these wells remains the subject of further inquiry, likewise the failure rate of these and existing wells.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Can we all say, "Entitlement"!

dou4now (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2014 at 5:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The southwest appears to be in a tragedy of a commons scenario. If the drought continues, the present consumption for agriculture and big cities that probably should not even exist will deplete the most essential common pool resource next to air, namely fresh water. Individuals and entities working on self-interest will use up both the surface and underground supplies.
The thirsty gorilla, irrigation-based agriculture, grew big before there were so many urban mouths and industrial consumers. It staked huge claims which nobody seems to be reconsidering based on watering crops which do not belong - rice? alfalfa? almonds? Now the system is out of balance and unsustainable. Farmers won't stop pumping while they can. Many are corporations that don't care, and others feel they have no options. Regulators won't be able to effect necessary changes fast enough.
Bottom line: now, not two or three years from now, is the time for Santa Barbara to begin getting desalination up and running. Things appear to be drying up faster, not slower than projected. If rains come, we will face some added costs for having built insurance that will have to be maintained. But if the climate is changing long-term, or even if this drought is protracted, we'll be very happy to have quintillions of gallons of water lapping on the beach and the means to drink and wash with some of it without being dependent on a valve turned by politicians in Sacramento.

anemonefish (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2014 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think the scariest part of this is Tom Fayram being in charge of our precious water, and being referred to as a "Czar". If you've ever met the man, the words "Peter Principle" pop into your head. Tom certainly tries hard, but he's a lifelong county civil servant with a vapid look in his eyes.

I wonder what his plans are to keep the south coast supplied with water?

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2014 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: