New state-mandated water conservation rules go into effect in California

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- Mandatory water cutbacks began throughout the state on Monday as a result of the governor's drought plan. This means major new restrictions and penalties.

The restriction goal is designed to keep recharge ponds full and to keep us from using as much groundwater as possible. We need groundwater, but taking too much too quickly can cause more problems and possible damage to the area's underground infrastructure.

The browning of the Bay Area has begun. The state has started keeping track of the water retailers. Cities and water companies will have to cut water use by 8 to 36 percent.

"This is when the clock starts running," said Marty Grimes with the Santa Clara Valley Water District. "They have to reduce their water use by a certain percentage based on what they used back in June of 2013. So this is when they're going to start to compare the numbers."

But don't expect the water companies and city run utilities to pay the penalties on their own.

The bill gets handed down to you, and they all use different formulas.

Starting Monday, 1.3 million East Bay Municipal Utility District customers face a 20 percent mandatory water reduction. They must limit yard watering to twice a week and no watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. In 2014, 73 gallons was the average use per capita per day.

"We don't have water cops," said EBMUD spokesperson Nelsy Rodriguez. "We simply don't have the resources to send our crews out, watching everyone's irrigation practices. We're really relying on the community to come together and work on this as a big team and get our consumption down."

The utility will also be offering lawn signs to customers that say "Golden State -- Golden Lawn" to let neighbors know that you're conserving water.

Of course, how much you're required to conserve depends on where you live.

The San Jose Water Company serves more than 1 million people in the South Bay. Customers will pay a higher rate the more water they use plus a surcharge.

Many people have already started conserving, hoping it's enough to keep them from paying a penalty.

"I know my husband has been checking how much water we have been using over the past few days just to make sure that we're not in excess so that we don't have that fine that we really don't want to pay," said San Jose resident Gloria Ashdown.

Grimes added, "Ultimately we're talking about a finite water supply in Santa Clara County. And we're all in this together; we don't know when the drought is going to end, so we all need to do our part."

Here's some positive news -- after a slow start to the year, the latest numbers show Santa Clara County's water use in April was reduced by 25 percent. And they're hoping for an even better May when the numbers come out in the middle of this month.

To learn how much your city is required to cut back, click here. For water rebate information from Bay Area water suppliers, click here. And click here for tips on how to conserve water. To learn more about how to report water wasters #WhereYouLive, click here.

For full coverage on the drought, click here.
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