Drought-Stricken California Ramps Up Water Restrictions, New Limits On Use

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The State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Tuesday to extend and expand its emergency drought regulations.

California residents can't turn their sprinklers on every day under the new rules. Customers must ask for water at restaurants and have an opportunity to decline fresh towels and sheets at hotels.

It's up to local water departments to enforce these rules. They can fine offenders $500 per violation, but few have gone that far.

The water board says it will also start tracking how agencies enforce the regulations that began in July.

Reservoirs are going dry as winter ends without significant storms.

Here's a look at how the regulations will affect California residents and businesses:


Servers in bars, restaurants and cafeterias can't bring out water with menus and silverware unless customers ask. Some restaurants already have signs saying they don't automatically serve water because of the drought. The rule is meant to raise conservation awareness more than save water.


Hotel guests must get a chance to decline fresh towels and sheets. Business operators must place signs in the bathroom reminding them they have this opportunity to conserve.


Local water departments have to limit how many days a week people water their lawns. The state standard is twice a week. Homeowners are also barred from turning on sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days after.


If local water departments get wind of leaks in homes and businesses, they must notify the customers. The rules don't spell out how, but the warnings can be included in bills or left on a door hanger.


Hosing down driveways and sidewalks is barred, and residents can only wash cars if their hoses can shut off. Decorative fountains can't use drinking-quality water unless they have recirculating pumps. Sprinklers must stay on grass and not spray sidewalks and streets.


Violators face a fine of up to $500 a day, but enforcement varies and severe penalties are rare. Local water departments must start reporting how they ensure their customers follow the water rules.

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