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Californians report city water waste in midst of drought

One day after California's water board approved $500 fines for outdoor water waste, people are reporting problems in parks.
One day after California's water board approved $500 fines for outdoor water waste, people are reporting problems in parks and city sidewalks.

When people see a puddle or a leak, they're pulling out their cellphone to report the problem.

The wrinkles in Fremont resident Arnold Corbett's face prove he is weathered a few seasons and gained the wisdom to see him through this drought.

Corbett says, "I'm a conservist, I like to conserve." He feels frustrated when neighbors let their water run free. "It's pathetic that some people just don't care. We're not supposed to wash our cars, we're not supposed to water our lawns."

More and more folks around San Francisco share his irritation and have started documenting alleged water waste with their phones.

Several viewers sent ABC7 News pictures of public workers spraying down city sidewalks and it appears to violate the new regulations set out by the water board. However, Tyrone Jue with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission says it is not so.

Jue told ABC7 News, "We've been getting these pictures for months now, ever since we've been pushing the drought message. To be clear, the work that's being done by Public Works is for public health reasons and also it's being done with recycled water."

That saves about 9,000 of water a day. Although the citizen activism didn't catch a violation this time, he appreciates the help.

Jue says, "The more people can report on water waste being done in their area, hopefully the more quickly something can be done about it."

This week ABC7 News crews found water waste in Sue Bierman Park. The runoff water created an impromptu bird bath.

Reno resident Marie Kerr says, "It's beautiful, it's nice to have a green park, but it seems like it's a little overwatered."

There is a similar puddle problem at Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco resident Jim Oschwald said, "I'd hate to see the park turn brown, but I don't know what the answer is."

For Corbett, the answer comes down to responsibility. He advocates everyone share the concern about conservation. He said, "Don't make an idiot of yourself. If it's a neighbor, knock on the door and say, 'Hey, you've got a leak.' Without water, we all dry up."

When it comes to water waste, the city's Public Utilities Commission is a huge offender. The PUC tells ABC7 News that they have a pipe near East Palo Alto that drops about 25 gallons of fresh water per minute into the bay, or millions of gallons over the past several years. The Public Utilities Commission says they've tried to fix it several times, but the leak won't be fixed until the bay tunnel project comes online in October.
Related Topics:
weather drought water water conservation california water environment San Francisco
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