Enforcing water restrictions in Madera County and City

MADERA, Calif.

Joann Hernandez with the city Water and Sewer Department spends the day driving the neighborhoods looking for someone watering their lawns, washing their cars, or running water hoses without a nozzle.

Last month the city council agreed on a set of water use rules that took effect in March.

City officials have written the following rules:
1. All outside irrigation is prohibited every day between 11:00 a.m. and 7 p.m.
2. All outside irrigation is prohibited on Mondays
3. Water users with address on the EVEN numbered side of streets may water on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday only.
4. Water users with addresses on the ODD numbered side of the streets may water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday only

Hernandez got out of her vehicle when he noticed Richard Flores watering his lawn at 11:30 a.m. She instructs him to turn off his water and makes him aware of the city watering rules.

"Today is not your day to water," she told him, "and there's no watering between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m."

Flores says he didn't know. Hernandez hands him a flier with the regulations. The flier also serves as a warning.

First time violators get a written warning. The second violation is punishable by a $50 charge added on the next water bill; a third violation is a $100 fine; and a fourth offense will cost $150.

On top of the day and hour restrictions, Joann is also enforcing water conservations efforts. That includes the following set of rules as printed on the flier:

a. Waste water in anyway, indoors or outdoors.
b. Allow water to run down the street gutter or onto adjoining property.
c. Water lawns or wash cars with an open-end hose
d. Hose off driveway, sidewalk or paved areas at residence or business
e. Wash down street gutters
f. Wash down buildings other than for painting or maintenance
g. Continually flow water for recreational purposes.
2. Avoid running sprinklers for long periods of time at each location. Watering in excess of 15 minutes per setting MAY BE considered wasteful. This could result in issuance of a citation.
3. Equip all evaporative coolers with water-saving devices.
4. Repair all leaks of any type or size as soon as possible.

Madera County Supervisors have passed a more stringent set of rules and steeper fines for homeowners that rely on Madera County water services.

According to the ordinance passed, Madera County Water Use rules include:
1. Outdoor water use limited to 2 days per week based on street addresses
2. Even number street addresses shall water only on Wednesdays and Sundays
3. Odd number street addresses shall water only on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
4. No outdoor watering on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays

In addition, County officials say they are following with the cities rules to not ban watering the lawn during the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

David Rogers, the Madera County Supervisor for District 2 says, unlike the city, County code enforcement officials will not give first time violators a free pass. The first offense is subject to a $75 fine, the second will cost $125 and the cost of the third offense jumps $175.

"People know we're in a drought," he said. "We're in an urgent situation and urgent situations require urgent action."

So far City and County officials say, for the most part, people are following the rules. But if the State's water woes worsen, tougher water use regulations could follow.

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