California cracks down on water wasters

  • 02/11/2015
California cracks down on water wasters

California is finding new ways to crack down on water wasters.

Despite the state being in the grip of a record drought, some wealthy homeowners are continuing to use more than their share. So officials are fining whole cities, including Beverly Hills.

In California's Coachella Valley, where green golf courses stand out like a mirage in the desert landscape, water users were asked to save 36 percent. Instead, according to state officials, they're using 1.4 billion gallons (5.3 billion litres) more than allotted.  

Water conservation is also in short supply in Beverly Hills, where lush green lawns still prevail.

Now, in a state of emergency because of the drought, California is slapping Beverly Hills, Coachella and two other water districts with fines of US$61,000 each.

"The folks that are not pulling their weight so to speak, they need to be prodded, and we think that's what these fines will do," says state water regulator Cris Carrigan.

What Beverly Hills failed to do, according to the state, was to go after water wasters.

"They haven't issued a single civil fine or penalty to anyone there," says Mr Carrigan. "We believe that if Beverly Hills goes out and starts enforcing the conservation measures that they have on the books, they're going to achieve great results."

"I think it's going to come to neighbours policing neighbour," says Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold.

Back in May, Mr Gold told CBS News that instead of shaming the city's millionaires, he wanted to educate them.

"Our goal is not to fine anybody. Our goal is to get everybody on board with the fact that you [have] to save water."

Now the city says it is committed to "implementing additional programmes, such as new penalty surcharges".

If that message doesn't get through, the state could fine city and other water suppliers up to US$10,000 a day.

CBS News