Making Sense of California’s Water Restrictions

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With summer’s blistering ever-present heat, northstate residents are facing serious water issues.

Since the California State Water Resources Control Board implemented its new drought emergency water conservation measures on July 29th, many cities have implemented water use restrictions.

The City implemented Stage 1 in February, calling for 15 percent voluntary conservation. The newest ordinance, Phase 2 which amends the Municipal Code Chapter 1409 Drought Management Plan”, became mandatory on August 5th. It requires a 20 percent overall reduction of water use as compared with water usage for 2013.

These new restrictions apply to all City of Redding residential, commercial and institutional water customers, including CalTrans, Shasta County and the City of Redding.

The restrictions are:

  1. Don’t let outdoor watering run off onto sidewalks, streets, parking lots, driveways or structures.
  2. Don’t use potable water on sidewalks and driveways unless it’s necessary to protect public health and safety.

The state’s restrictions prohibit:

  1. hosing down driveways and sidewalks, as well as watering outdoor landscapes if it causes excess runoff.
  2. adding water to a decorative water feature such as a water fountain unless it uses a recirculating system.
  3. using a hose to wash your car unless the hose has a shut-off nozzle.

Here’s when you can and can’t water.

A. If your street address ends with an odd number, if you use automatic sprinklers and/or hose-end sprinklers, you may only water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and only between 9:00pm and 7:00am.

B. If your street address ends with an even number, if you use automatic sprinklers and/or hose-end sprinklers you may only water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and only between 9:00pm and 7:00am.

These mandatory water cutbacks don’t apply to indoor water use, at least not yet.

Let’s clear up some confusion.

If you hand water with a hose that’s fitted with a shut-off nozzle, a bucket, a watering can, or with a manually operated low flow drip irrigation system, you can water on any day,but only during 9pm to 7am. The hose must be hand-held at all times to meet these requirements.

Unlike some communities, Redding doesn’t have a designated “water police” person to enforce restrictions.

Violations are managed on a complaint basis, said Brian Crane, the City of Redding’s Public Works Director who manages the City’s water and wastewater utilities.

The City tracks our water usage through weekly spreadsheets.

“We’ve already meeting the 20% reduction,” Crane said. In fact, for August, we’re already using 24 percent less water than 1 year ago.

With the year to date, Crane says we’re at 13 percent reduction, up 2 percent for August.

Although we’re meeting the 20 percent goal, “we still want to ensure that (everyone) will comply” with the restrictions, said Crane.

For those who don’t, violations can be reported through REU’s website at (scroll down on the right-hand side). This will give the City all the information they need to follow-up.

Once a violation is reported, the City delivers a yellow “door hanger” warning card offering suggestions for complying with the rules. A second reported violation may result in a red “door hanger” indicating the violation has been verified by City of Redding personnel. A third violation will prompt the City to issue a “Notice to Correct” letter with the intent to cite if the violation doesn’t cease. A confirmed violation after a “Notice to Correct” letter is issued may result in the City issuing a citation with an administrative penalty:

  • up to $50 for the first citation,
  • $75 for the second citation,
  • $100 for the third and each subsequent violation of the ordinance.

The State Water Resources Board allowed for higher fines, said Crane, but the Redding City Council decided “citizens were already displaying a track record for conservation” so they lowered the fines.

“They felt implementing new measures were enough to achieve conservation,” he said.“The more we get the word out, we hope we’ll do even better,” he said.

“We’ll learn a bit,” said Crane, “and use that to come back to the Council with a new improved ordinance in 6 months.”

This is the first time Redding has implemented mandatory conservation measures. “If the ordinance isn’t working, there will be the opportunity to modify (it),” Crane said.

Redding sits on top of a large aquifer. Statewide, these groundwater basins haven’t been keenly regulated. But that’s about to change. Friday, the state legislature passed SB 1168 – the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It requires that all groundwater basins and subbasins will be managed sustainably by local entities based on an adopted sustainable groundwater management plan.

“We’ll be required at a state level to better manage our state basins,” said Crane. This means getting the Redding Water Council back together to come up with a water basin management plan.

Regarding the current restrictions, Crane said “It’s important that we conserve water not only for our community but also for the rest of the state. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

To consult with Debra Atlas regarding expanding your green culture, contact her at or via her blog at

A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable or
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