Residents Fined for Reducing Lawn-Watering During Drought

With California facing its worst drought in decades, state and local officials have implored residents to limit water usage. But some residents complain that their city is now sending mixed messages when it comes to water conservation.

Glendora residents Laura Whitney and her husband Michael Korte, for instance, thought they were being responsible when they cut their lawn-watering down to twice a week in an effort to save water.  To their dismay, however, they soon received a letter from the city threatening a $500 fine for allowing their grass to go brown. Ironically, the letter arrived on the very day that the State Water Resources Control Board approved new regulations allowing for $500 fines for excessive use of water.

"Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green," the letter stated. City officials gave the couple 60 days to restore their lawn or face the penalty.

Whitney and Korte aren’t alone. Anaheim resident Sandra Tran received similar notices from Orange County Public Works after limiting her water usage. She has since installed drought-resistant landscaping.

"It's almost crazy because one agency is telling you one thing and another is forcing you to do the opposite," Tran said.

Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown now says she will consider reintroducing legislation which would bar local governments from imposing such fines during a drought. Brown introduced a bill previously but dropped it when the cities in her district promised not to penalize homeowners during emergency water shortages. (Similar legislation affecting homeowner associations was recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown.) 

Nevertheless, local officials have insisted that water conservation and healthy lawns are compatible goals. While water conservation is encouraged, they say green lawns are still necessary to prevent blight and loss of property values.

Read more about the controversy here.