Can you be fined for using too much water in your house?

There is too much misinformation on both sides of the argument. But yes, you can be fined. A LOT! And they can put you in jail.

I read the entire code, and a person can be fined $1000 initially and up to $10,000 plus $500 per day for not complying with the water conservation code.

Under the guise of preventing a water shortage (which is quite important), the state has given themselves, local water suppliers, and the courts broad powers to fine and even jail residents for using “too much” water in their homes. It is another area that the government is expanding control over citizens.

Should we conserve water? Of course, we should. Should we educate California residents on the potential dangers of not being careful with this most important resource? You bet! But the water code in California is quite restrictive and sets the per capita residential indoor water use at a ridiculously low level. It also uses subjective language in the code and allows for the creation of arbitrary “water conservation programs”.

So what’s the problem with the new code?

If the State of California, the county you live in, the city you live in, or the water company that serves your home decides to develop a “water conservation program”, you are required to follow the rules of the program or face fines and jail. In other words, if the water company that serves you says you can only water your lawn on Tuesdays and Thursdays and you water on Wednesday, the water company can fine you $1000 and send you to jail for up to 30 days. Additionally, they can further fine you up to $10,000 plus $500 per day. In order to fine you more than $1000 the court must find all of the following:

(A) The residential user had actual notice of the requirement found to be violated. 

 (B) The conduct was intentional.

 (C) The amount of water involved was substantial.  

That all sounds good, right?

As a hypothetical, if the city determines as part of their water conservation program that you may not shower and do laundry on the same day, the following could land you with a $10,000 fine or more.

For (A) they just have to mail you, email you, or otherwise be able to prove you were notified of the rules of the water conservation program.

For (B) you intentionally took a shower and did laundry

For (C) Since “substantial” is subjective if you used more than their ridiculously low standard of 55 gallons per person on that day they can call that substantial.

or this

As a hypothetical, if the city determines as part of their water conservation program that you may not water you lawn except one day a week, the following could land you with a $10,000 fine or more.

For (A) they just have to mail you, email you, or otherwise be able to prove you were notified of the rules of the water conservation program.

For (B) you programmed your irrigation timer to water two days a week

For (C) Since “substantial” is subjective, they can say it’s substantial because you watered twice as often as they said you could.

I could come up with hundreds of hypothetical scenarios for “water conservation programs” cities, counties, the state of CA, or your local water department could create. Essentially, the state has given themselves, cities, counties, water companies, and others the power to make rules at their whim which could cause residents to receive ridiculous fines and jail time. This is overreaching and giving the state too much power over the individual. Yes, of course, we need to be water-wise! But the state is using this to create more expansive power for itself. The water code could be more reasonable in its water usage allowances and less subjective in the language.

Don’t believe me about these things? Below is the section that talks about it in the CA water code. I’ve also included links to the full text of the CA water code below the quoted text.

(a) From and after the publication or posting of any ordinance or resolution pursuant to Section 376, a violation of a requirement of a water conservation program adopted pursuant to Section 376 is a misdemeanor. A person convicted under this subdivision shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 30 days, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.

 (b) A court or public entity may hold a person civilly liable in an amount not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for a violation of any of the following:

 (1) An ordinance or resolution adopted pursuant to Section 376.

 (2) A regulation adopted by the board under Section 1058.5 or Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 10609) of Part 2.55 of Division 6, unless the board regulation provides that it cannot be enforced under this section or provides for a lesser applicable maximum penalty.

 (c) Commencing on the 31st day after the public entity notified a person of a violation described in subdivision (b), the person additionally may be civilly liable in an amount not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) plus five hundred dollars ($500) for each additional day on which the violation continues.

 (d) Remedies prescribed in this section are cumulative and not alternative, except that no liability shall be recoverable under this section for any violation of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) if the board has filed a complaint pursuant to Section 1846 alleging the same violation.

 (e) A public entity may administratively impose the civil liability described in subdivisions (b) and (c) after providing notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The public entity shall initiate a proceeding under this subdivision by a complaint issued pursuant to Section 377.5. The public entity shall issue the complaint at least 30 days before the hearing on the complaint and the complaint shall state the basis for the proposed civil liability order.

 (f) (1) In determining the amount of civil liability to assess, a court or public entity shall take into consideration all relevant circumstances, including, but not limited to, the nature and persistence of the violation, the extent of the harm caused by the violation, the length of time over which the violation occurs, and any corrective action taken by the violator.

 (2) The civil liability calculated pursuant to paragraph (1) for the first violation of subdivision (b) by a residential water user shall not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) except in extraordinary situations where the court or public entity finds all of the following:

 (A) The residential user had actual notice of the requirement found to be violated.

 (B) The conduct was intentional.

 (C) The amount of water involved was substantial.

 (g) The civil liability imposed pursuant to this section shall be paid to the public entity and expended solely for the purposes of this chapter.

 (h) An order setting administrative civil liability shall become effective and final upon issuance of the order and payment shall be made. Judicial review of any final order shall be pursuant to Section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

 (i) In addition to the remedies prescribed in this section, a public entity may enforce water use limitations established by an ordinance or resolution adopted pursuant to this chapter, or as otherwise authorized by law, by a volumetric penalty in an amount established by the public entity.

 (Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 14, Sec. 2. (SB 606) Effective January 1, 2019.)

There is a lot of misinformation out there in internet land, but it is very easy to read for yourself the text of the water code and the 2018 amendment to the water code online. The problem is most people just repeat what they hear on the news, social media, or from their friends without actually taking the time to read the water code for themselves.

The section of the California water conservation code can be found here:

(Go ahead, read it yourself.) 

And here is the Bill that the governor signed in 2018 that modified the water code

(Read it, I dare you!)  

Aside from all of this mumbo jumbo, there are things you can do to make your home more efficient and to get a better understanding of your water usage.  

One of the best things I’ve found is to install a device that can monitor your water usage. There are a few options out there, but one of my favorites is FLO by Moen with the FloProtect bundle. Features of this bundle:

  1. Allows you to see your home water usage by minute, hour, day, week, and month
  2. Shows you your water usage by fixture
  3. Insurance Verification Letter & Water Damage Deductible Guarantee
  4. Alerts you via the app if there is a leak
  5. You can shut off your water through the app in an emergency
  6. Proactive Monitoring + Water Concierge service

By using this device you can protect yourself from flooding in your home and it will help you identify where you use the most water so that you can make intelligent decisions on water conservation in the home. If you have a shower head that has too high of a flow rate it will show you. If you have a broken sprinkler line it will be easy to identify. If you have a toilet that runs intermittently it will tell you so.

Another device is a wifi-enabled irrigation controller (if you have a yard with sprinklers). I have the Rachio at my house, but several companies make similar units. This will help you monitor and manage your irrigation more effectively. Irrigation is almost always the biggest consumer of water in a single-family residence with a yard.  

Lastly, you can make sure you have water-saving fixtures in your house. Replacing old inefficient toilets with the new high-efficiency toilets is a huge benefit. But making sure you have low flow kitchen and bathroom faucets, and low flow showerheads are also important.

If you are pro-active about being water-wise in your own home these restrictive California water conservation codes will not be a concern of yours. Let us know if you would like more information on how to be more water-wise.

Mitch Clemmons

Founder, Clemmons Services, Inc
DBA Mitch Clemmons Plumbing
DBA Trusty Plumbers

local plumber

Does Your Water Heater Need to Be Replaced?

People have been enjoying some level of plumbing since around 3,000 B.C. — and one of the major perks of having indoor plumbing is being able to use hot water. So when your water heater starts to fail, it’s important to get it replaced as soon as possible.

Here are a few ways you can tell if you should start looking into water heater replacements.

Loud noises: Today’s water heaters should be relatively quiet. So if you’re hearing loud, rumbling or banging noises, that’s a good indication that something isn’t right. Generally, water heater noises are caused by the buildup of sediment in the tank. While flushing the tank can help clear out the sediment, buildup can cause holes, leaks, and other damage. So if you’re hearing strange noises, contact your local plumber.

Old age: Like all other aspects of a home, water heaters need to be replaced when they get old. Fortunately, water heaters can last around 10 years if they’re taken care of and maintained well. But if your water heater is older than 10 years, you should definitely consider looking up replacement contractors to set you up with a new water heater.

Signs of rust: All plumbing elements are at risk of corrosion, and specifically rust. While rust can come from either the water heater itself or the pipes hooked up to the heater, rust is a sure sign that something needs to be replaced. So if you notice rusty water or see rust starting to show in the heater itself, plumbing repairs may be called for.

Insufficient heat: There’s nothing worse than going to take a hot shower only to realize the water is ice cold. If you’re noticing it takes longer for your water to heat up, or doesn’t heat up at all, it’s definitely time to call for some emergency plumbing services. Not having hot water can be a big inconvenience, so it’s important to get it taken care of quickly.

Hopefully, this article gave you a good idea of when a water heater should be replaced. While plumbing can be tricky to gauge, any of these signs warrant a call to the local plumber.

If you’re looking for water heater repair Fullerton CA residents can rely on, contact Mitch Clemmons Plumbing today. We have local plumbers available for all of your plumbing needs, big or small.

high water bill

Bill vs Bill

High Water Bill? 

You may wonder why you have a high water bill but let’s start with the word ‘bill.’

The word “bill” has a number of meanings and uses. Probably most common is its use as first name. How William becomes Will and/or Bill has always been a bit confusing. If Will is short for William, shouldn’t Bill be short for Billiam? That would be an interesting name.

There’s also the legislative “bill”. In 1792, George Washington exercised the first veto on a bill. It would’ve divided the seats in the House of Representatives giving a few more seats to the North. Though he thought me might come off as a bit biased to the South, Washington nonetheless stopped its passing. Since the cherry tree, image was always a concern for ole George.

Another bill most are familiar with is their utility bill. Whether it’s your electric bill, gas bill or water bill, you see some bill once a month. Your water bill fluctuates greatly throughout the year for a number of reasons but there are some you can definitely control. An average family of four uses about 400 gallons of water a day and rates for running water can greatly vary from state to state. If you’ve seen a huge spike in your water bill, here are a things to look for:

Toilet Leaks

One possible source of a high water bill is your toilet. Your toilet uses more water than just about every other item in your home. Roughly nearly 30% of all water used inside your house goes through your toilet. Often your tank will leak back into the bowl. Now sometimes you can actually see or hear the leak if it’s strong enough. Other times the leaking water could be so subtle you’ll never notice it; until you get the bill.

If you want to be certain, you can place a few drops of food coloring into the tank. Come back after some time and if you see the color in the bowl, well, you have a leak. Normally a faulty valve in your tank is the cause for that leak. Most home improvement stores or even big-box stores will carry what’s commonly known as a flapper.

Sprinkler System

High water bills can arise because of a leak in your sprinkler system.  Many lawns nowadays have a timed watering system. So over-watering usually isn’t the culprit. What could be over-watering your lawn are cracks or breaks in pipes under your grass. Or maybe a water leak in one of the fixtures. If you had this installed by a landscaper make sure to alert them to it immediately.

New Dishwasher, Refrigerator, or Washing Machine

New appliances in your home can be very exciting. They can also cause spikes in your water bill if they use water when the previous appliance didn’t. Most newer appliances have settings that can regulate how much water they use. Make sure to have those settings dialed-in by a professional.

Change in Routine?

Are you getting up earlier for work? So perhaps you’re taking showers earlier in the morning and letting the water run longer to heat up. If there’s no way around you taking a cold shower perhaps take a shorter shower to compensate for the time waiting for the water to warm up. Also switching to a WaterSense showerhead could save about 2900 gallons of water a year. Think about this when it comes to high water bills.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Running your water while your brush your teeth can equal up to 2 gallons of water. So shutting it off can save about 200 gallons a year. Yet sometimes when you shut it off you might not notice the slow leak costing you. Or do you have any faucets you rarely use? Sometimes older homes will have faucets and fixtures in the oddest places.Those too could be leaking so slowly that it goes completely unnoticed. If you’ve recently moved into a home and aren’t aware of all the faucets, take a stroll around the garage and/or the basement. Check behind large pieces of furniture or cabinets. Another common issue is with homes that previously had a pool. The former equipment could have been improperly disconnected. Have a professional check your property thoroughly to be certain.

If you have a high water bill check closely into the above items.

Defective Meters

Misreads of meters are not uncommon. Human error does occur from time to time. It’s well within your right to ask for a reread. Also meters can become defective. Check with your local public utility service to find out more info on requesting a reread or to have your meter inspected. 

New Tenant

Son or daughter move back in with their endless amount of laundry? Your uncle staying in your extra room and just loves to run the water while shaving? Any extended stay guests can add a significant amount to your water bill and create a high water bill.

Water Conservation

Most of us now are use to having water at every faucet whenever we want it. Yet issues like those in Flint, Michigan and with the Dakota Pipeline Access show us how precious water still is. Conserving water is not only environmentally responsible but the best way to save you money on your water bill. After fixing and resolving any issues with your current plumbing, here are some tips to preserve water and ultimately keep your high water bill down:

Water Conservation Tips:

  • Water your grass and plants when temperatures are at their lowest. High temps will cause water to evaporate causing the need to water your lawn more.
  • If you are a fan of a cold beverage, store more in your refrigerator. Using your tap for cold water or to constantly make ice cubes can be costly down the road.
  • Changing out older toilets for units that are more efficient can be a huge money saver. If you don’t have the money to do that there are devices you can add to your tank that can lessen the amount of water used at each flush.
  • Locate your main shut-off valve. If you don’t have one, getting one installed by a professional is a great idea. It can be a lifesaver in the event a plumbing emergency erupts.
  • If you don’t have a dishwasher consider investing in one. A dishwasher can save costly gallons of water over hand washing dishes.
  • Washing your dishes with running water can cost up to 20 gallons of water. Filling the sink saves half those gallons.
  • In the event of rain, make sure to turn off your sprinkler system.
  • If you’re looking to buy new appliances make sure they are EPA WaterSense certified.
  • Avoid running the washer or dishwasher with less the full loads.

If you do have a high water bill and wonder what the source is call Mitch Clemmons Plumbing serving La Habra, Fullerton, Brea, Anaheim and surrounding communities.

(562) 242-3218