Local News

Jul 14, 2014 10:19 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

Drought shaming could be effective way to get neighbors to conserve water

Some California cities are finding creative ways to combat conservation apathy: asking residents to drought shame their neighbors and report them to utility companies if they see them wasting water.

In cities in San Luis Obispo County, utility companies say they receive anywhere from a few calls a season to daily calls from residents telling on their neighbors.

San Luis Obispo's utility services manager Ron Munds says the city doesn't encourage tattling, but their customer's actions aren't out of spite. "It's mainly concern because again water is a precious resource. I feel our citizens, our water customers are all very conservation minded. So when people see water running down a gutter, they do call," Munds said.

In the Central Valley cities such as Sacramento, water authorities have received more than 6,000 calls from citizens concerned about their neighbor's water use.

An Atascadero woman says she hears sprinklers in her apartment complex go off "every night, every day," she said, preferring anonymity because she fears building managers will raise her rent. She says she is frustrated to see others wasting water when she does her part to conserve: "I don't flush at night. We have low-flow shower heads... we're in a water shortage and I think we all need to be aware."

Managers for the Bordeaux House Apartments off Viejo Camino in Atascadero say they were not aware the sprinklers were watering on Mondays, when outdoor watering is banned in the city, and would talk to their landscapers.

Munds says most people who violate water regulations simply don't know the rules.

"Typically the people are unaware and so once they are made aware, the problem is usually corrected," Munds said.

Other areas such as Grover Beach are not encouraging people to tell on their neighbors. Instead, "our focus is trying to help people understand and get the information out there so they don't have the problem initially," public works director Greg Ray said.

Grover Beach is mandating a 10 percent reduction in water consumption. If its residents don't comply, they will potentially see their water rates double in the future.

Morro Bay officials are planning on hanging signs on people's doors notifying them of water violations, should they be away when inspectors come by.

People across the state, regardless of whether their area is experiencing a water shortage, may be under the same conservation rules come Tuesday.

The State Water Board is holding a meeting to consider emergency water measures, including fines of up to $500 per day for overwatering lawns, not using a nozzle on hoses to wash cars, and watering outdoors more than two days per week. The new fines could take effect as early as August 1, according to Munds.

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