City hears proposal to implement fines against egregious water wasters

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ST. GEORGE – City officials discussed the possibility of implementing fines for water wasters during a St. George City Council work meeting Thursday.

St. George had a water waste ordinance just over a century ago, René Fleming, the city’s energy and water resources services coordinator, said to the council. In 1909, residents would be fined $25 and face up to 25 days in the city jail, she said.

“So, we know that way back when, they took water very seriously,” Fleming said. “I think we still take it seriously, but we do have an issue with, I will call them ‘egregious’ water wasters.”

The city hasn’t had a fine on water for a long time now, and while Fleming didn’t suggest the city reinstate jail time for water-wasting offenders, the concept of an ordinance fining “egregious” wasters $25 after being twice-warned was put before the City Council.

Examples of egregious wasters were people who do not fix leaking water systems and end up “watering the street,” as well as landlords who do not fix water problems, as their tenants pay the water bill. As the city water is relatively cheap, Fleming said, the landlord may not see an incentive to address the issue.

Neighbors or city crews may report properties where water is being wasted, Fleming said, but there is currently little she can do about it.

There’s really nothing I can do beyond asking, ‘Would you please fix the problem?’” she said.

The system Fleming proposed would involve having someone from the city – namely herself of another city employee – look into reported offenses firsthand. Once confirmed, an offender would be given a verbal warning and 15 days to fix the problem. If the problem remained, then a written warning with another 15 days to comply would be issued.

The third time is when the $25 fine comes into play. The fine would be added to the utility bill and would remain and be added to each month thereafter.

“For the folks who just refuse to get it fixed, the only way I’ll make any kind of a point at all is if they have some sort of a fee,” Fleming said.

Fines collected could go toward education and rebate programs related to water conservation, Fleming added.

We’re looking at water that is running or standing for 20 minutes or more, so it is something that is more than just overspray,” Fleming said.

There are times when water runs free that are recognized by Fleming’s proposed ordinance to not be subject to the fine, such as storm water runoff, water used in firefighting, dust control, hazardous materials abatement, inspection of water systems, and other measures related to safety and water system maintenance.

Instances of alleged water wasting would have to be reported to the city before they are investigated, Fleming said. The city will not actively go searching for potential violations, she said.

Honestly, we hope not to collect any fines,” said Scott Taylor, director of the city’s Water Services Department.

Fleming agreed, but also said she’d like to have something on the books to help enforce water conservation.

The proposed ordinance comes ahead of the city’s expected implementation of its annual water conservation measures during drought years.

As summer approaches, mandatory restrictions on watering tend to be issued, limiting the times of day when residents can use water outdoors for lawns or gardens. Individuals who do not abide by the restrictions have yet to be subject to any kind of penalty.

Fleming previously told St. George News that the city would rather educate residents about water conservation rather than penalize them.

Enacting fines is a proposed part of the city’s overall conversation plan, Fleming said, but to date it hasn’t been put into action.

“What you’ve presented, I think, is a viable way to start the process,” City Councilman Joe Bowcutt said. “We may need to adjust it later, but I think it needs to be in place – it needs to have some teeth in it.”

Councilwoman Bette Ariel said the proposal sounded fair and was common sense.

It’s not a steep fine, Mayor Jon Pike said, and no one likes to pay a fine of any amount, so it may be enough. Along with a potential ordinance, the mayor also said there are other water conservation measures the city may need to look at in the future, such as revisiting the city’s water rate structure.

“If there’s anything scarce and precious in this area, it’s water,” Pike said. “It’s something we need to think about for sure.”

As it was a work meeting, the City Council did not take any action on the proposed ordinance at the time, though generally appeared in favor of the idea.

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20 Comments

  • Brian May 1, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Honestly, this is so offensive. I can see placing a billable value on water and holding everyone to it (including the city, including the water conservancy district, including the golf courses). Where I live we have a common sense graduated billing scale. The more you use, the more you pay. There are a few people that pay $250 a month for their water bills, because they have the money and want lots of grass, shrubs, and trees. More power to them! They’re helping subsidize the system and keep my prices down. But to talk about fining “egrigious wasters” but giving the golf courses a pass because they aren’t using “potable” water is a crock. The golf course by my house uses more water in a day than our 400 home community uses in a month, but they get a pass because it isn’t “treated” water. Guess what? Neither is my communities. It gets pumped out of the ground, into a tank, then into my faucet. Charge the golf courses the same rate that we’re paying. Even if it isn’t graduated and they’re paying our lowest rate it would be way, way higher than it is now. Until the city and water conservancy district uses common sense and treats water users equally they can take their precious pipeline and irrigate where the sun don’t shine. The water conservancy district should be called The Power Consolidation District, because they’re much more concerned with that (and I’m not talking about energy) than they are with water.

    • Simone May 1, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Good idea, Brian. I like it. Unfortunately it will never happen because doing so would raise course fees and membership prices and God knows our beloved city and county officials cant afford another hike in their course fees.

    • BIG GUY May 1, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      Both Sunbrook and Entrada golf courses irrigate with reuse water taken from the output of the City’s sewage treatment plant. I do not know how many other golf courses do the same but likely there are others. Interested in reuse water for your faucet? I’m sure something can be arranged.
      >
      >An example in the story is the landlord who refuses to fix the plumbing in his/her rental unit because his tenants pay the water bill. What do you propose to do in that case?
      >
      >I’m with you 100% for a graduated billing based on usage, but there are problems that can’t be solved this way.

    • fun bag May 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Yep, and they’re all republican mormons. And a fair amount of them love to golf. And they don’t care what you or I think…

      • 42214 May 2, 2015 at 10:29 am

        Fun Bag? How bout douchebag. How did party affiliation or religion get into this debate?

      • fun bag May 2, 2015 at 10:46 pm

        just seems a bit cultish, no?

    • wilbur May 1, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Can they (SGWCD) prove all these golf courses aren’t using potable water? They claim they are not, but can you REALLY believe all these golf courses have a pipeline over to the treatment plant? (I can’t.) Don’t think for a minute the Water Conservancy boys aren’t in the hip pockets of all the developers around here. (IMHO)

      • BIG GUY May 1, 2015 at 7:25 pm

        What you are suggesting would be a criminal activity requiring a conspiracy between dozens of City and WCWCD workers who would have to be “in” on the crime: management, engineers, maintenance workers, billing staff, auditors, etc. All these folks would have insight into water being diverted on a massive scale. Are they all being paid off by developers so they won’t expose the crime?
        >
        I’m no supporter of developers and others who want to build the Lake Powell pipeline, but you have nothing but your dislike of developers to support your claim.

        • wilbur May 1, 2015 at 8:47 pm

          lets start with WCWCD jacking their tax line on our bills ten-fold to build the taj mahal on the hill.

          then lets talk about local developer(s) dumping privately-owned well company water by huge amounts to “prove” their entitlements to the state. head room for more growth for them.

          more cronyism here than anyone cares to admit.

          and yeah, the drought is making the Colorado river a joke for the “gimme the pipeline” boys.

          anybody can see that. except for the booster in church.

        • BIG GUY May 2, 2015 at 6:01 am

          WILBUR, many of us, including me, a) believe that the WCWCD board is unduly influenced by developers, b) oppose the Lake Powell pipeline and c) resent a WCWCD surcharge when they built their new “Taj Mahal.” Your complaints in your second post above are more substantial and are worth considering. Your first post about golf courses had no reasonable basis and that’s what I pointed out. You’d have never heard from me if your second post had been your first.

  • backroadswest May 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I met with Julie Gillins & had an email exchange with Rene Fleming concerning “How to Report” excessive water usage, like when a neighbor’s sprinkler system gets stuck “ON,” or a new construction site has a water system problem.

    It took a bit to get a definitive answer, but it seems that the “Preferred Number” is 435-627-4802 (M-F 7A-3P) daytime, and 435-627-4835 after hours/weekends.

    This is the SG City Dispatch Center, who will document the contact and request a drive-by. That’s about as formal as it gets for now, but it’s worth putting those numbers on your fridge or in your cell phone directory.

    It would also be a good idea for area HOAs to have these numbers and publish them in their newsletters. SG News and other local sites & publications should also have these numbers posted with other Emergency Contact information.

    • Lastdays May 1, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      Well, not sure about that approach. You would rather turn your neighbor in to the proper authorities instead of just talking with them first ? Wow, some neighbor. Maybe if you turned in enough water wasters they will set up a reward system for you. Maybe even public recognition or an award of some kind.

      • backroadswest May 2, 2015 at 8:14 am

        No actually, I’d prefer more of a “Neighborhood Watch” approach. With a lot of part-timers around, at least in my neighborhood, we bring each other’s trash barrels in, pick up newspapers and packages, and keep an eye out for other issues with houses that are vacant.

        One would be “Sprinklers On,” when no one is home. I reported one home that had a valve stuck open for a couple of hours, which is what prompted me to seek out a “Water Hotline.” I have also called a listing Realtor, when I saw an apparently vacant house, that was for sale, with a garage overhead door that was open for 3 days. He was thankful for my call!

        I would rather promote “Neighborly Behavior,” rather than a vigilante approach. Sorry if that didn’t come across that way.

  • beentheredonethat May 1, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Don’t forget about the 10 member Mormon family showering on Sunday going to sacrement in their newly washed Cadillac Escalade!

    • CaliGirl May 2, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      Should we all skip Sunday showers? I bet every 5 to 12 year olds would jump on that idea. I do agree local “wards” should encourage their neighborhood faithful to walk to church since there is one on nearly every corner. Perhaps the LDS church should stop building large parking areas in the neighborhood church houses. Leave the Escalde at home. And leave it dirty, dirty, dirty!

    • Mean Momma May 2, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      Cleanliness is next to Godliness…

  • fun bag May 1, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    just a matter of time before the kooky right wingers start talking about “then darn libruls in california wantin’ to steal all our water!”

    • Brian May 2, 2015 at 7:16 am

      You mean like Las Vegas trying to drain the Snake Valley Aquifer, destroying rural Nevada and Utah (about 85% of the aquifer is in Utah), including agriculture, so they can build another few casinos? There’s nothing fun or funny about ignorance.

      • fun bag May 2, 2015 at 10:45 pm

        I guess they have a lot in common with the developers around here then, surprised?

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