The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday night reinstated stiff monetary penalties for businesses and residents who fail to reduce their water consumption by at least 25% 's water czar starting May 15 and through most of the year.
The council voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of Daniel Smith, director of Operations Services and serving as Pleasanton's water czar.
With almost no rainfall so far this year and reservoirs at record lows, Smith's 25% mandated reduction program was not unexpected. It follows a similar mandate statewide by Gov. Jerry Brown, which called for similar thigh smaller reductions that vary across the state.
In Pleasanton, the mandated 25% reductions will be based on comparable water bills in 2013 as they were last year, not on 2014 billings.
The penalties effective for much of 2014 were dropped for 90 days last January as water department managers awaited possible rainfall during the winter months, which didn't happen.
"With the return of hot weather, it is recommended that the excess use penalties be reinstated," Smith told the council.
The 25% mandated cut in water use means:
Cutting back on lawn sprinkling to 12 minutes a week and never in daytime.
No car washing in driveways; use commercial car washes only that recycle their water.
No topping off swimming pools unless they have covers, and no new pools or refills be allowed in Pleasanton during the water crisis.
To encourage residents and businesses to conserve, Dublin and Livermore have raised rates across the board. Pleasanton's rules keep rates the same, but add penalties if 25% reductions aren't made.
These can be steep. Customers who fail to meet the 25% mandatory cutback will be charged an additional $4 per unit of water used above that amount and fined $50. For a second offense, the extra unit charge goes to $8 with a $100 penalty; a third time will cost $12 a unit and a $250 penalty; a fourth violation will raise the unit cost to $12 with a $500 penalty.
Smith said waivers will be issued for those water users who long ago cut back and whose bills prove it. Also exempted will be families that have added newborns or older relatives in their households since a year ago. It's the big users Smith and his department are going after. Getting those customers to comply with the 25% cut will go a long way toward solving Pleasanton's water shortage, Smith said.
Smith said the 25% cutbacks shouldn't cause many problems since water usage across the city was reduced by 27.8% last year, above the goal and n a year when the program didn't start until late spring.
"We're already ahead of last year with water consumption in April down 30% as of this week, compared to 11.2% at this time a year ago," Smith said.
Pleasanton's water reduction compliance is far ahead of the mandates the governor imposed, Smith said, but by making water use cuts mandatory throughout California, that will help ensure adequate water supplies for everyone for quite some time.
Brown's mandate did add new compliance rules here, however. Restaurants can no longer serve water to customers unless asked, and hotels will have to give customers an option of re-using their linens during their stay to save water used in laundering.
Smith urged the public to start reading their water meters regularly and to check for possible leaks. Customers can call the city's "Drought Line" at 931-5504 for information and assistance. They can also receive rebates on making water efficiency upgrades, but should contact his department through the Drought Line before making any purchases or changes to make sure the rebates apply.
Starting with May water billings, customer bills will show how current usage compares with 2013 consumption.