Eastern Municipal Water District’s (EMWD) Board of Directors officially moved into Stage 3a of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan last week, according to a press release issued by the agency. Under the move, customers face overage fees and fines for wasting water. The move comes about due to historic drought conditions currently being experienced throughout the state of California.
“This decision is not easy, but it is necessary,” EMWD President Phil Paule said in the press release issued late last week. “Our customers must view this as a call to action and take the necessary steps to reduce water consumption.”
Under the new rules, variances to fill swimming pools and establish new landscaping are eliminated as are variances for leaks that are not repaired within 48 hours.
EMWD has previously granted variances for establishing landscaping or filling swimming pools by offering a temporary increase in the customer’s Tier 2 allocation in EMWD’s allocation-based rate stricture. Under the new regulations, customers can still use the necessary water but will likely go over their water budget, resulting in a higher price point.
Under Stage 3a of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan, customers who are identified as having wasted water will receive a warning letter from EMWD. Following one warning letter, fines will be instituted, starting at $25 for residential customers and $100 for commercial customers.
EMWD staff must witness the second violation for a fine to be issued. The District is adding temporary staff to help customers curtail water waste.
EMWD uses a tiered rate for billing that consists of two elements, indoor usage and outdoor usage. Under the tiered rate system, usage allows for 60 gallons per person per day. As water is used, billing units are charged the Indoor Use Rate or until a customer reaches the maximum number of billing units in their indoor water budget.
Once all indoor water budget units are used, billing units are charged the Outdoor Use rates, usually billed at higher than indoor rates.
Outdoor water budgets are based on the amount of water required to maintain a property’s irrigated, or grassy area. The number of billing units will vary monthly depending on weather information that has been gathered throughout the service area. For example, customers will receive more water in the summer for outdoor water budgets than in the winter.
Rates, in Murrieta for example, range from $1.727 per billing unit in tier 1, considered normal usage, to $10.361 per billing usage in tier four, or wasteful water usage category.
“We are asking our customers to be responsible for their usage,” Paule said. “Basic steps such as ensuring sprinkler systems are not watering sidewalks are vital to preventing water waste. In the middle of one of the worst droughts in our state’s history, allowing irrigation systems to send water flowing down the street is no longer something we can turn a blind eye to.”
The action is a historic one, EMWD –Riverside County’s largest water agency – has never before moved to Stage 3 of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan.
In January, California Governor Jerry Brown pled with residents to reduce water consumption by 20 percent though recent reports show that most water districts failed to meet that decrease. Actual numbers show that consumption was only lessened by about five percent forcing the state’s hand to pass emergency regulations earlier this summer.
To comply with the State Water Resources Control Board’s recent call to action, EMWD is asking its customers to reduce their outdoor irrigation. EMWD’s Water Use Regulations also require customers to water during nighttime hours and eliminate runoff.
For those looking to make a change to the way they use water, EMWD has a plethora of programs designed to assist customers. Information on the new regulations as well as rebates on everything from commodes to grass removal can be found on the company’s website at www.emwd.org.
For more information on the drought, water conservation and the new regulations visit www.emwd.org or www.saveourh2o.org.
To report suspected water waste, customers are asked to contact EMWD’s Conservation Department’s Water Waste Hotline at 951-928-3777, ext. 3306.