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Santa Cruz Offers Water School


Santa Cruz is known for its easy-going lifestyle, but the city is taking a tough stance on water use and it seems to be working. Thanks to some strict regulations and innovative programs, the average resident in the City of Santa Cruz uses about half as much water as those in the rest of the state.  

On May 1, 2015, the city began limiting most households to 249 gallons of water a day. Within the first month, more than 90 percent of residents complied with the new rules. Those who don’t are subject to a hefty fine. Depending on how much a resident goes over the allotment, a surcharge is applied to the water bill that can run up to 10 times the normal cost.

In addition, the city deploys “drought busters” or “water cops” who write tickets for those who are caught violating the city water ordinance which prohibits watering between 10am and 5pm, washing off pavement or refilling spas.  Since the restrictions began, the city has collected $462,050 in fines, and created an alternative for first time offenders.

The city has set up a “water school,” similar to traffic school. A first-time offender may opt to participate in the two-hour class on water conservation that is taught by city staff in lieu of paying the fine.

Mayor, Don Lane says it’s helping create a community that cares, “While rationing carries a potential penalty, which is a strong incentive to conserve, our real goal in Santa Cruz is to save water – not to penalize our residents. That’s why water school is a win-win. Our citizens learn how to conserve so they won’t be penalized, and they become partners with us in protecting our water supply.”

The drought is hitting the city of Santa Cruz particularly hard. Unlike most cities that have groundwater, a connection to state water canals, or vast reservoirs, the City of Santa Cruz relies almost exclusively on storm runoff for its water needs.

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