Drought-stricken California drops $1.5m fine for wasting water

The drought that has been turning California into a parched wasteland for four years is prolific; this incredibly severe drought has been bad news for California homeowners (and their lawns) since 2011. Despite their desperate circumstances, and to Governor Jerry Brown’s chagrin, until recently the State of California has been rather lenient on those wasting water.

However, in a dramatic first step towards more vigorous punishment for water-wasters, the State of California has just issued a $1.5 million fine to the Byron-Bethany agricultural district, which spans three counties and serves 12,000 residents. After receiving a warning from the Water Control Board on June 12, Byron-Bethany continued to divert 2,000 acre-feet of water between the 12th and 25th.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool (660,000 gallons) in Tblisi, Georgia.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool (660,000 gallons) in Tblisi, Georgia.

Given that one acre-foot of water holds 326,000 gallons, Byron-Bethany stands accused of what is essentially “water theft” to the tune of 625 million gallons. That much water could fill almost 1,000 Olympic swimming pools.

Byron-Bethany general manager Rick Gilmore has claimed the district was unaware of the impending penalties, and has counter-sued the state, in company with another water district that was ordered to cease pumping water

It is likely that the State will take the suit to court, claiming that the $1.5 million figure is far below the $5.18 million in fines which it is legally entitled to impose in this case.

In the meantime, the 12,000 residents of Mountain House, CA are forced to get their water elsewhere, and have turned to a neighboring district to meet their water demands.

While all of this is going on, Gov. Jerry Brown is in Vatican City, meeting with the Pope and mayors from all over the world to discuss solutions to climate change. It certainly seems that the State of California could benefit from a solution.

More on this story here.