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Are Water Penalties Effective?

Are Water Penalties Effective?


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Jed Boal Reporting...A growing number of Utah communities have passed water restrictions with penalties. And, as the drought persists, more restrictions are on the way.

Salt Lake County yesterday passed an ordinance to fine water wasters. St. George has done the same. But, critics say an ordinance without enforcement does nothing to conserve water.

Molly Waters is the state water conservation coordinator. She's worked to encourage drought tolerant landscaping and she has worked with dozens of communities this year on conservation ordinances.

Molly Waters/State Water Conservation Coordinator: “THEY'RE REALLY NOT WAITING FOR AN EXTREME CRISIS. ALTHOUGH IT IS THE FIFTH YEAR OF A DROUGHT...SOME ARE BEING PROACTIVE AND IMPLEMENTING THEM BEFORE IT GETS TOO BAD."

Water supplies vary statewide. That’s why, Waters explains, there is no blanket water conservation law.

But, people and businesses seem to be getting the message. We are seeing more brown lawns and less daytime watering.

We ran into Paul Allen, a landscape maintenance contractor repairing a sprinkler head. Allen manages about 60 properties for Qwest and says the company has installed water sensors, made severe cuts and let the turf yellow.

Paul Allen/Landscape Maintenance Contractor: “REALLY WATCHING THE WATER THIS YEAR.AND TRYING TO DO WHAT WE CAN AND NOT BE WATER MONGERS."

Jed Boal/Eyewitness News: "WATER USE WATCHDOGS LIKE THESE NEW ORDINANCES AND COMMUNITY WILLINGNESS TO LIVE WITH A LITTLE BROWN. BUT, THEY CONSIDER THESE MEASURES ONLY FIRST STEPS. IF THAT'S ALL WE DO, THEY SAY OUR CONSERVATION EFFORTS IN THE LONG-RUN WILL BE A FAILURE."

Zach Frankel/Utah Rivers Council: WE NEED A BIG-PICTURE PROGRAMATIC INVESTMENT IN WATER CONSERVATION THAT INCLUDES ENFORCEMENT AND FINES, SENSIBILE RATE STRUCTURES, AND TAX INCENTIVES LIKE REBATES FOR XERISCAPING YOUR GARDEN."

The true test of success arrives when the drought ends.

Molly Waters/State Water Conservation Coordinator: IT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE DROUGHT THAT WE NEED TO CONSERVE. WE NEED TO CONSERVE BECAUSE WE'RE INCREASING IN POPULATION SO RAPIDLY, OUR WATER SUPPLIES WON'T KEEP UP."

The conservation coordinator thinks fines and penalties announced so far in various communities are stiff enough. She thinks education rather than severe penalties will have greater impact on long-term conservation.

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