California plans to hire "water cops" to monitor people and businesses wasting water as statewide usage soared in March despite Gov. Gavin Newsom declaring a drought emergency last July and parts of Southern California under water restrictions, according to The Mercury News.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District, south of the San Francisco Bay Area, encompassing 15 cities and more than 2 million residents, is considering "water cops" to police neighborhoods and business districts for water wasters. People who are wasting water could be fined up to $500.
Water cops may slap citations for people watering their yards for long periods of time and washing cars in the driveway.
Aaron Baker, the COO of Valley Water, told CBS News that water cops are "needed because of the unprecedented times we're in, and because we aren't making enough progress on our water savings."
The threat of water cops snooping on people comes as California's total water usage in March was the most since 2015 despite calls for conservation amid a megadrought.
California Water Resources Control Board said water usage jumped 19% compared to March 2020.
On a regional basis, Bay Area was up 2.5% in March YoY. Soaring demand was primarily in Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties jumped 26.9%.
Californians aren't listening to the state government, even with Newsom's drought emergency deceleration last July. This could be problematic because a dry spring and lack of statewide mandatory conservation standards, with forecasts for a scorching summer, may suggest the water crisis could worsen.
"We just came off the driest January, February and March in recorded history.
"It was a jaw-droppingly dry three months. People started turning on their sprinklers early. That's where the water went. To their lawns. Pure and simple," said Jeffrey Mount, a professor emeritus at UC Davis and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California's water center.
The latest examples of an expanding water crisis are the Angeles Department of Water and Power and East Bay Municipal Utility restricting the amount customers can water their yards.
"The lack of conservation is becoming a growing political embarrassment for Newsom, whose call for 15% conservation so far has been voluntary," The Mercury News said. To be effective, this may suggest the state government might have to get tough on water wasters to meet conservation targets.
To do this: Unleash water cops.