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Santa Clara Valley water officials vote to hire "waters cops"

Santa Clara Valley water officials are voting on a plan to hire a new wave of "waters cops" to stop people from wasting water during the drought.
Santa Clara Valley water officials decided in a 6-0 vote Tuesday night to hire a new wave of "waters cops" to stop people from wasting water during the drought.

Officials want people to realize how serious the situation is. There are about 100 ground water recharge ponds in the Santa Clara Valley Water District and they're all almost dry and the reservoirs are low. Water officials are tired of asking nicely, so they're looking now to reel enforcement.

In San Jose's Rose Garden neighborhood, the lawns run the gamut from bright green, to yellow, to brown.

"We've cut back definitely on the lawn and definitely areas we don't feel definitely need water," Julie Cruickshank said.

Melanie Griswold is in the same boat, motivated by conservation and money. "Last year when we moved in and we were watering and finding it was taking a lot of water and was really expensive, it was $300 or $400 a month to maintain," she said.

Griswold is taking this opportunity to rip out the lawn and design a drought resistant landscape. "I'm looking at putting in a gray water system to help use some of the laundry water that we would otherwise just be wasting," she said.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is looking to hire five to 10 new employees who would be the enforcers. They will respond to reports of water wasters and when necessary report violators to their water provider, who could then issue a fine of up to $500.

"We want to be able to respond to those quickly. A lot of times people are making these reports, and they're not seeing anything happen, so that's frustrating to everybody, I understand that," Valley Water District spokesperson Marty Grimes said. "So we wanted to make sure these reports get responded to and as they're traveling around the county and see water waste, they can do some education right there."

Grimes said Valley Water they will do whatever it takes to get people to reduce water use by 20 percent.

"Nobody likes to give a fine, nobody wants to get to that point, we certainly understand that most people respond to a warning or a letter or just education, but if there are people who are completely ignoring water rules after they've been told, then fines are available," Santa Clara Valley Water District spokesperson Marty Grimes said.

Rules like, don't water the sidewalk and use a hose with a nozzle. If you're not already, the water cops could come knocking and neighbors with brown lawns are OK with that.

"I think everyone needs to be held to the same standards," Cruickshank said.

The three-year drought is the worst in California since the mid-1970s.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Related Topics:
news drought water water conservation california water climate change green Santa Clara San Jose
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