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Parched California Proposes Steep Fines for Over-Watering Lawns

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Regulators in drought-stricken California are proposing stringent new conservation measures to limit outdoor water use, including fines of up to $500 a day for using a hose without a shut-off nozzle.

The most populous U.S. state is suffering its third year of drought and in January Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, allowing the state to request federal aid.

In some cities and towns about half the water residents use is for lawns and cleaning cars, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, which made the proposal public on Tuesday. Voluntary measures do not go far enough, it said.

"It's not meant to spank people, it's meant to make people aware and say, 'This is serious; conserve'," said agency spokesman Timothy Moran, noting that the rules authorize local law enforcement agencies to write tickets imposing fines.

The new restrictions prohibit watering gardens enough to cause visible runoff onto roads or walkways, using water on driveways or asphalt, and in non-recirculating fountains.

Urban water agencies would be subject to daily fines of up to $10,000 for not implementing water-shortage contingency plans, which restrict how many days a week residents can engage in outdoor watering, among other limits on their customers.

Moran said the regulations, which constitute the first such statewide mandates for residents and urban water agencies, are subject to public comment and regulators will vote on July 15. If passed, they would take effect in August and remain in place for nine months with the possibility of being extended.

"California has been subject to multi-year droughts in the past and there is no guarantee that precipitation this winter will lift the State out of current drought conditions," the proposal says.

 

(Reporting by Madeleine Thomas; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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