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SCV water officials puzzle over how to become water cops

Posted: July 29, 2014 7:16 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2014 7:16 p.m.

When California water officials approved strict emergency water conservation regulations earlier this month, they put the responsibility of enforcing those rules on local water agencies.

Santa Clarita Valley water agencies met Tuesday to debate ways to enforce the water regulations — to fine those guilty of half a dozen “prohibited activities” identified by the state and in the agencies’ own emergency water plan.

In effect, how to become water cops.

Violations are clear: hosing down driveways, washing cars without shut-off nozzles, allowing water to run onto sidewalks and streets. Fines could mount up to $500 a day.

“What’s to stop people sneaking their irrigation on at one in the morning?” Newhall County Water District board member Maria Gutzeit asked the committee. “How would we catch that?”

Dan Masnada, general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, answered: “People will rat each other out. I hate to use that phrase but that’s what it is.”

He added: “Our goal is not to penalize people, but it’s good to put people on notice about the fines. Hopefully, our target is compliance and not simply collecting 50 bucks in fines.”

During the meeting at Castaic Lake Water Agency headquarters in Saugus, Gutzeit pointed out the impracticality of patrolling for water overuse.

“If I wanted to water my lawn on the wrong days I would set my sprinkler for midnight to 3 a.m. Who is out patrolling at that time?

“Even my neighbors wouldn’t care,” she said. “If we want our neighbors to rat each other out, who should they call? My hunch is they’ll end up calling the wrong number, calling the city or the wrong agency.

“Is there a hot-line or centralized number we can use?” she said. “It might be more efficient if we had a controlled (phone) number.”

Other communitiesHomeowner Jenny Dermody, who attended the meeting at as a member of the public, told the committee: “Right now my incentive for conserving water is to lower my water bill.”

She also asked the committee to consider looking at other communities to see how they are complying with state regulations.

“We might want to find other communities have already invented the wheel,” she said. “That would be easier than trying to figure out a plan for ourselves.”

A draft action plan unveiled Tuesday is the one most likely to be implemented locally. Each of the four SCV water purveyors will tweak it independently and is expected to bring it back to the Santa Clarita Valley Water Committee early next month.

The committee doesn’t carry the power of enforcement but ensures valleywide collaboration on drought issues.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




chefgirl358: Posted: July 29, 2014 10:54 p.m.

I wanna know what the CITY plans to do about their water wasting habits? Are they going to let their precious medians wilt? Is anyone EVER going to make the post office STOP flooding Creekside? Are they going to suspend all new construction? Are they going to force lakes in Tournament and Bridgeport to go dry? How about swimming pools? The evaporation rate is crazy! Will they let the grass at the parks dry up?

My point is, before you folks start beating up residents for a trickle on their driveway, you'd better direct your efforts towards the biggest offenders of all...the Government in the City of Santa Clarita itself.

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: July 29, 2014 11:20 p.m.

They are banking on neighbors ratting each other out. What a bunch of tools.

SingleMomOfOne: Posted: July 30, 2014 12:15 a.m.


I will, as I have said before have zero issues with ratting out anyone washing their car, numerous cars, their friends and families cars, every single weekend with water, PRECIOUS water, we all pay for...

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: July 30, 2014 12:47 a.m.

You and Offramp should hook up.

Vtown123: Posted: July 30, 2014 2:12 a.m.

You need to find something better to do with your time. People can wash their cars all day long as long as they have a nozzle at the end of the hose.

ricketzz: Posted: July 30, 2014 10:34 a.m.

I am unclear as to whether we can get the driveway wet when washing cars, or if we have to do it on the lawn? (I just fill up at the Shell and get an exterior wash wax from the brushes.)

In a month it will be obvious who is cheating by looking at who has the best lawn. They can also fly over and see shiny concrete from 5 miles away. Day or night.

Unreal: Posted: July 30, 2014 11:14 a.m.

Oh good grief! What a bunch of hysteria. A special meeting. Really!

Baddog1: Posted: July 30, 2014 11:17 a.m.

As what happened near UCLA yesterday, you will see water mains bursting all over Los Angeles during this conservation effort. This has happened in the past, it will happen again now, and then they will lift the restrictions to reduce the pressure on our deteriorated pipes everywhere.

BoxerMom: Posted: July 30, 2014 11:40 a.m.

You are 100% correct, Baddog.

bobbycat1439: Posted: July 30, 2014 11:52 a.m.

To quote the article:
Dan Masnada, general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, answered: “People will rat each other out. I hate to use that phrase but that’s what it is.”

So , this is how it begins...
As historian Robert Gellately, author of Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany noted on his Florida State University bio page: “There were relatively few secret police, and most were just processing the information coming in. I had found a shocking fact. It wasn't the secret police who were doing this wide-scale surveillance and hiding on every street corner. It was the ordinary German people who were informing on their neighbors.”

People of the Santa Clarita Valley, Welcome to your Brave New World!

Rocketeer: Posted: July 30, 2014 1:31 p.m.

The car washing law USED to be that you didn't have to have a shutoff nozzle as long as the hose was turned off whenever it wasn't in your hand. Has that changed?

tekmomllg: Posted: July 30, 2014 3:45 p.m.

funny... 2 months ago, my new neighbors removed the mostly California native plants & flowers from their yard & put sod down...

I guess one good thing about the 'water rules', now I can say I'm conserving water rather than being lazy with my landscaping!

tekmomllg: Posted: July 30, 2014 3:49 p.m.

Baddog & Boxermom ... I wondered about the water pressure issue when watching the flood on the news last night. I kept thinking, didn't this happen last year too? Maybe some engineers should be looking into adjusting the water pressure.

cj64: Posted: July 30, 2014 6:30 p.m.

The recent water pipe break near UCLA was a consequence of water pressure fluctuations in high pressure pipes. The plan to eliminate watering on certain days was tried a few years ago, and that change caused many pipes to break.

rosekitten: Posted: July 30, 2014 7:17 p.m.

A "days of the week" regulation is stupid. They should be looking at "volume." One person could be setting their sprinklers to run 20 minutes a day for 3 days = 60 minutes. Meanwhile, their neighbor could be running their sprinklers 8 minutes a day for 7 days - 56 minutes, thereby using less water. Another example, one day it could be 70 degrees here and we don't water. The very next day it could be 100 degrees, a day that we would water regardless if it's a Monday or Wednesday. Their rationale makes no sense at all.

lars1: Posted: July 30, 2014 7:53 p.m.

80% of water use in California is for farms.

thesuhys: Posted: July 30, 2014 8:40 p.m.

I agree with rosekitten, reducing the volume is a terrific idea. Since most of our valley is clay, watering more than 5 minutes will cause runoff. By going to the water agency's website you can determine your type of soil, what sprinklers heads to use, how much to water, etc. All of the answers are on the website, residents need to be responsible and use the tools that are out there for us. We have started to "catch" the condensation from our a/c in a 5 gallon water container, so we can water our succulents. Actions speak louder than words --edited.

chefgirl358: Posted: July 30, 2014 10:35 p.m.

I read an article in the Times the other day about a small home farmer in the central valley barely hanging on, trying to keep his little pistachio trees alive (they're mostly dead) and they stick a bucket in the shower to catch the water while waiting for the water to warm up. That would be enough to water my house plants plus some extra stuff.

missyJk: Posted: July 31, 2014 2:52 a.m.

why dont they give out free gadgets to heat the water in the pipes so it come out hot right away and no shower waste..come on water agencies

ricketzz: Posted: July 31, 2014 8:54 a.m.

The water system is gravity fed. How does conservation raise the pressure? The pressure is determined by the elevation of the reservoirs. The reservoirs are low.

chefgirl358: Posted: July 31, 2014 11:39 a.m.

Missyjk, they couldn't afford to give out free things like tankless water heaters which already do exactly what you suggested. The tankless heaters superheat the water as it comes out, it's hot immediately since the device doesn't store water like a big gas water heater most of us have. The downside besides cost...if the electricity goes out you have NO hot water and also sometimes in large homes it takes a long time for the hot water to travel to distant areas.

rosekitten: Posted: July 31, 2014 2:53 p.m.

Of course our water purveyors want us to "rat out" our neighbors. Simply because they do not have the staff, funds, time nor technology to regulate their customers' water use. They should have been doing that years ago, now they want to punish us for their poor management. I say regulate by volume usage, not by days of the week. I know that volume usage isn't easy, because each household has different specifications, such as number of occupants, property size, type of garden, pool or no pool, and many other factors. But that is the job of the water purveyor to figure it out. I refuse to "rat out" my neighbors. Especially since last year I saw a broken pipe along the bike trail between Chi Chi's and Burger King on Bouquet Canyon Road. As a good citizen, I called the water company to report it, but they did nothing. That broken pipe was spewing water 100 feet in the air for over a week.

ricketzz: Posted: August 1, 2014 10:10 a.m.

Technically, pressure is determined by the weight of the column of water above the place where pressure is measured.

I am using gray water from the swamp coolers to soak the ground, 3 square feet at a time. I have stopped watering most of the back yard. I need clay. My dirt is mostly sand. I can make loam.

ricketzz: Posted: August 1, 2014 10:12 a.m.

I find that very hard to believe.

missyJk: Posted: August 2, 2014 3:03 p.m.

@chefgirl358 thanks for that info..maybe they than should offer tax incentives like they do for the solar panels

chefgirl358: Posted: August 2, 2014 11:56 p.m.

Missyjk, yeah I could see that as an idea worth implementing. The other bonus of going tankless is that you don't have that enormous thing in your garage. I have the big gas kind but one of my friends put in tankless years ago. I think it would be ideal to have both...a small gas powered one and the tankless.

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