Water Wasters’ to Face Fines, But First… Lots of Outreach

The Town of Yountville purchases water from the State (CalVet/Veterans Home Rector Reservoir). The Veterans Home has notified the Town that for the second year in a row, it was reducing the Town’s annual water allocation from 500 acre-feet to 400 acre-feet, a reduction of 20%. In addition, the State has issued regulations requiring the Town to implement Phase 2 water restrictions.

As a result of these actions, the Town of Yountville has mounted a robust educational outreach regarding the severe drought we face, and the State mandated water restrictions in place. Efforts have included extensive social media postings, deployment of message trailers with information rotating through our neighborhoods, a detailed website page explaining the water restrictions and offering helpful information, rebate programs to assist in the conversion of landscaped medians, and “cash for grass” program to replace front yard grass turf, monthly council meeting updates, promoting the water use tracking application “Eye on Water,” and advertising and news coverage in the Yountville Sun and The Yountvillian. Town staff even hand-delivered door hangers to residences outlining the requirements.

Town Manager Steve Rogers noted, “The good news is that for the most part, our town residents are complying and have reduced our water consumption to meet that 20% water reduction target. The Town thanks our residents and businesses for doing their part to reduce water use so we can avoid even more restrictive regulations in the future. According to town staff, the most common water restriction violations include:

  1. watering on a wrong day (even addresses may water on Monday and Thursday, odd addresses on Tuesday and Friday with no watering allowed on Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday),
  2. watering between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm
  3. watering such that it results in runoff into the street or storm gutters
  4. watering on the right day but using too much water
  5. using more than the permitted 450 gallons of water per day

The Town uses an education-focused outreach effort first before imposing fines. Town staff will place a courtesy door hanger on the home and advise residents on which water restrictions they are violating. For a repeated violation, the Town will send a courtesy written notice. And on the third offense, the Town will issue a formal Notice of Violation, and only then would the water customer face a fine for excessive water use. However, not all residents are compliant with the mandatory water restrictions, and excessive water wasters will be fined and see an additional penalty on their June monthly utility bill. The Town has over 900 utility accounts. Town staff notes that most residents who receive a courtesy door hanger or written notice can reach out to staff to learn more about the situation and can come into compliance without more formal action. Only 23 out of 252 accounts (less than 10%) that the Town gave courtesy notices have resulted in the account being issued a fine. To date, town staff has issued:

  • 252 courtesy door hangers
  • 106 courtesy written notices
  • 62 formal Notices of Violations
  • 23 fines 

Many door hanger customers respond quickly with an appreciative thank you for letting me know; we will get it corrected right away. Those who don’t respond to the door hanger and receive a courtesy notice of violation generally don’t respond to the courtesy notice either. It is not until they receive the notice of violation/abatement order that they respond, and we receive inquiries at Town Hall about the letter.

Finally, it is crucial to know that if you receive a Notice of Violation/Abatement Order, you should reach out to Town Staff as early as possible to indicate receipt along with a statement that you are going to look into it and correct things as needed. This contact will suspend the timeline in a notice of violation, allowing time to correct the violation. Staff will note this in the water conservation database and check for a repeat of the violation in the future. If the violation is abated the notice is closed; if the violation persists, fines may apply

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