A year after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, the city of Long Beach is moving away from trying to entice water conservation with friendly reminders.
For the first time ever, Long Beach has penalized a water waster, issuing four violations and $800 in fines to a McDonald’s restaurant on Bellflower Boulevard.
In light of the worsening drought, Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier said it was time to act.
“We've gotten to the point now where this drought is so serious and our credibility as a utility is in question that we can no longer put up with flagrant abusers of our prohibited users of water,” Wattier said.
The city's water department got a lot of complaints that the McDonald's restaurant on Bellflower Boulevard was wasting water, Wattier said. So, the department started monitoring it. They sent the owner a warning letter, and served its office two legal notices.
Still, water department employees videotaped broken irrigation lines and sprinklers going off twice overnight, sometimes five days a week.
On Friday afternoon, the manager on duty at the restaurant declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the regional franchise owner.
Long Beach has had permanent water restrictions in place since the 2009 drought, prohibiting sidewalk runoff, irrigation of landscape during the day, and other wasteful practices. Emergency water use restrictions in the city limit irrigation to 10 minutes on Mondays and Thursdays between October and March.
In less than a week, spring snowpack measurements should be at their peak, taken in Northern California from the Trinity River basin through the Feather and Truckee river basins.
Wattier’s not optimistic.
“There’s nine snow sensors in the Feather River watershed. Eight of those nine are showing zero snowpack in the area where it should be peaking out [Thursday],” Wattier said. “Quite frankly, we’re very, very concerned about the long-term progress. And we think Long Beach needs to set a good example in terms of conservation for the rest of the region and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
With state regulations tightening, and reservoirs emptying, Wattier says that he expects more cities to follow suit.