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Water restrictions, fines under review

The Madera City Council listened to the pro’s and con’s of restricted watering schedules Wednesday night and requested further information about the benefits and complications of automatically reducing winter-time watering to two days a week, on a set annual schedule.

Some residents have reportedly deemed the enforcers of the city Water Patrol Team as the “Water Nazis,” and others have objected to the $75 fine for a first time offense being automatically charged on a violator’s water bill. The fine for the second offense is $200, the third offense is $500, also charged to residents water bills.

The city employs one full-time person and two part-time on the Water Patrol Team in the summer and the team is now in full operation, watching for violators.

The strict, no-warning policy was adopted in the drought year of 2016, according to Mayor Andy Medellin and other city officials.

“The (previous) $25 fine was not enough and there was a lot of abuse. It was the only way to get their attention,” Medellin said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Medellin also said he thought more (education for residents and) outreach by the city Water Patrol Team would now be helpful. “They are not Water Nazis, but maybe ... they do need to get out of their cars in the evenings, talk with people ... educate ...,” he said.

Another issue came to light earlier this year when Council member CeCe Foley-Gallegos received a $75 citation after she was seen in her front yard by the Water Patrol Team watering her shrubbery without a hose-end nozzle.

Gallegos said she was surprised and completely unaware of the requirement to have a hose nozzle in use at all times, and she also said she thought the fines — without any warning, and their attachment to residents’ water bills, were too harsh for most Madera residents.

John Scarborough, interim Public Works director, said three days of watering were often preferable to one or two, as residents tend to up the length of watering duration in attempts to keep their lawns alive.

“Because of our soils, more of that water ends up running off and down the gutters. Sprinklers can put out more water — faster than the soil can absorb,” he said.

Scarborough also said restricting watering days increases demand load on city infrastructure.

To reduce watering confusion for residents, the council is also considering the adoption of a standardized, reduced watering day schedule in fall and winter during the rainy season as many area cities automatically do.

Staff reports in previous meetings also noted that water conservation reduces city water revenue.

The watering measure is currently under review, and the public is invited to attend City Council meetings or speak with their elected City Council members on the subject. Messages can also be left for Madera City Council members at 661-5405.

The current three-day-a-week schedule is as follows:

• All outside water use is prohibited every day between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

• All outside water use is prohibited on Mondays

• Odd-numbered addresses can water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

• Even-numbered addresses can water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday

The City of Madera reminds residents that landscape irrigation consumes over half of the water used around most homes. Many people tend to water too often and leave the sprinklers on for too long. Though the city is moving to a watering schedule where increased watering days are available, it is important that residents continue to conserve where they can and use only as much water as necessary.

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