California Hits Cities With Water Fines, Chastises Beverly Hills Wasters

There was good news and bad news for California’s cities in the latest drought announcement. On the one hand, the state made its target of reducing water consumption by 25 percent. On the other, several cities and districts will face fines for failing to cut back. One official said the few water wasters should be “ashamed.”

The four big water wasting areas are Beverly Hills, Indio, Redlands, and the Coachella Valley Water District, according to an announcement from the State Water Resources Control Board.

Cris Carrigan, the state board’s enforcement director, saved some of his harshest criticism for profligate citizens of Beverly Hills.

“Some urban water suppliers simply have not met the requirements laid before them. For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late. For those who aren’t (conserving) and who are wasting water, you should be ashamed of yourselves.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, other areas also failed to meet the criteria, but the state is going after districts with the financial resources to pay for larger conservation efforts.

The four areas will each receive a $61,000 fine – accumulated from a $500 a day penalty since June 1. If the situation doesn’t change, California will issue a cease and desist order and start fining $10,000 a day.

The cities can appeal their fines to a five-member state board, according to MSN.

Still, the overall announcement was positive with California meeting its conservation target.

California is in the middle of a severe drought, emptying lakes and starting a state of emergency.

Before and after shots of Lake Oroville, one of the reservoirs worst hit by the drought. [Image Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images] Before and after shots of Lake Oroville, one of the reservoirs worst hit by the drought. [Image Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]In response, the state water board set a target in May to reduce water usage by 25 percent. According to the most recent figures, the state reduced water consumption by 26 percent.

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, released a statement celebrating the difficult achievement.

“Millions of Californians have saved water during the summer months, which are the four most critical months to save water. Now, we need to keep it up as best we can, even as we hope for as much rain and snow as we can safely handle. We’re in the position of having to prepare for drought and flooding at the same time, but that’s what we’re faced with.”

California has met its target for four months running, according to Marcus, and saved a total of 253 billion gallons of water. The four profligate areas, on the other hand, wasted 2.3 billion gallons by not meeting the criteria. Coachella Valley alone overused by 1.4 billion gallons.

In Beverly Hills, home to wealthy estates with fountains, well-kept lawns and gardens, water use was about 169 gallons per person for September. Los Angeles residents only used 68 gallons for the same period of time.

The Oasis Terrace at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills [Image Credit: Araya Diaz/Getty Images] The Oasis Terrace at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills [Image Credit: Araya Diaz/Getty Images]There may be some hope on the horizon with winter approaching and potential El Nino rains. Still, Marcus warned that that too could mean trouble. First, the storms might not reach north enough to replenish snow packs, which are an important source of water. Second, with the ground so dry, sudden downpours could bring flash flooding.

“We’re in a tough pickle on this. We have to prepare for drought and flooding at the same time.”

If the drought continues on, the reservoir lakes around California could dry up in 2016. But as Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained to the Los Angeles Times, the state still has decades of water left, thanks to underground water resources.

[Image Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]