SFPUC approves its first excess water use charge in decades 

click to enlarge The SFPUC has approved new charges for excess water use for some 1,600 customers with dedicated irrigation accounts. - MATT HAMILTON/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Matt Hamilton/ap file photo
  • The SFPUC has approved new charges for excess water use for some 1,600 customers with dedicated irrigation accounts.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on this week unanimously approved its first charges for excess water use in The City since 1988 amid California's third year of a severe drought.

The charges will only apply to the some 1,600 customers with dedicated irrigation accounts - about half of which are municipal agencies - that were already told earlier this month that they must reduce outdoor irrigation by 10 percent.

The SFPUC approved the 10 percent mandatory outdoor-irrigation reduction on Aug. 12, and finalized the excess use charges on Tuesday. That means those 1,600 customers must use 90 percent of their 2013 water consumption this year, and will be billed double for any amount that exceeds the 90 percent allotment, effective Oct. 1.

"Current forecasts show fall looking pretty dry," SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said Wednesday. "We need to be doing everything we can now because what we have in storage could be all we have to rely on if the drought continues."

The SFPUC is currently at about 60 percent of system-wide storage capacity. The reduction will save an estimated 71 million gallons of water between October and June, when the SFPUC is expected to revisit the measure, according to Jue.

Edible food gardens will be exempt from the reduction in outdoor water use, as are most homes that have one water meter. However, homeowners associations with a dedicated outdoor meter will likely have to follow the new conservation rule for ornamental landscaping or turf.

In January, the SFPUC asked all customers to reduce water use by 10 percent. State emergency water regulations approved July 28 prohibit washing vehicles with a hose that does not have an automatic shut-off valve and watering outdoor flora that leads to runoff on sidewalks or in gutters and streets, or during most daylight hours.

Such infractions are punishable by fines up to $500, according to the state. The SFPUC conservation team will handle reports of private water waste in The City.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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