Water restrictions begin Friday in Pleasanton

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KTVU) - In two weeks, all California water suppliers will have to impose strict conservation rules and penalties similar to what goes into effect in Pleasanton Friday.

It's just a preview of what all Californians will soon be contending with when state mandates kick in.

For residents of Pleasanton, it will be déjà vu all over again as last summer's strict water restrictions, suspended last January, are re-imposed.

Every day, folks line up with water tanks and large garbage cans for the free, recycled gray water Pleasanton provides for gardens, lawns and landscaping.

That and heavy overuse fines have worked somewhat of a conservation miracle in Pleasanton where the state mandated water saving is 24 percent this year compared to 2013.

"We were the only agencies in the area that had this same restriction last year. We made 27.8 percent. So far this year we're at about 28 percent," says Dan Smith, Pleasanton's Director of Water Operations.

With 97 percent of customers at or under the goal, Pleasanton is one of the state's best conservers. Almost all of the water savings are from folks letting their lawns go brown or by using recycled water, just as Bobbie Allen does. "It's not hurting anybody, it's not hurting the environment and it's healthy; as far as my lawn is concerned," says Allen.

But the other 3 percent, so-called water hogs, were fined $1.2 million in surcharges. "The average penalty, depending upon the resident, was about $300," says Water Operations Director Smith. That's because they were fined not just on the overage, but on every gallon of water they consumed.

Most folks here fully understand the consequences. "Oh, I'm very aware because I was one of the big users," says Pleasanton resident George Adkins, who now has a 275 gallon gray water tank in his pickup truck.

Atkins slashed his use from 2013. "I had used 55 units which is tremendous. I mean, that's a lot. I was a big user. And after starting this, I got it down to 22 units. So, I had like a 60 percent cut," says Atkins. In response to KTVU's question on if the fine works Atkins responded, "Yeah, I agree that they have to do something to stimulate it."

Come June, for the first time many consumers in other districts statewide will face either rate increases or fines or both.