Supervisors in South Bay make water restrictions mandatory and permanent

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) -- Supervisors in Santa Clara County voted unanimously Tuesday to make temporary water restrictions permanent and mandatory for residents in unincorporated parts of the county.

Under the new ordinance, roughly 87,000 residents could face a fine if they don't comply.

"I think the situation we're in it's probably necessary if people aren't taking it seriously," said Colette Volkman, who lives in a county pocket in unincorporated San Jose.

The permanent rules mean residents should not have any landscaping runoff and not use sprinklers between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Residents also can't water paved areas such as driveways and can only wash a car with a hose that has a shut-off valve. Any water features or fountains must use recirculated water.

"We've been getting calls from people in unincorporated areas or well owners where they say 'My neighbors are wasting water. They're running the sprinklers every day, 2 hours a day, or whatever it may be. And there was nothing that can be done," said Jerry De La Piedra with the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Under the new ordinance, Water Waste Inspectors from the Water District will respond to complaints and initially issue a warning and pass on education materials.

Residents who don't abide by the rules will get two warnings before possible fines ranging between $100 and $500.

"We would like it to be voluntary. We really don't want to mandate or threaten people at all with penalties," said Santa Clara County Supervisor President Dave Cortese. "But the fact of the matter is we need people to know this is very serious."

When asked why make the ordinance permanent and not just during times of drought, Supervisor Cortese said it could eventually be reversed depending on the public's response.

The Water District says some a number of other Bay Area cities including Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Morgan Hill have similar permanent ordinances.

De La Piedra says some have had the ordinance in place since the 1988-1992 drought and simply don't enforce it in wetter years.