May 19, 2015

Water board to look at education instead of fines for initial water waste violations

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gavel on stack of documentsThe Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) Governing Board may decide on Wednesday to ease up on fines for residents who waste water.

According to the meeting agenda, the board that oversees rate and rule changes is set to vote on a two-year pilot program that would focus on education instead of fines for wasting water.

Katherine Yuhas, ABCWUA’s water conservation officer, told New Mexico Political Report the idea behind the pilot program came from talking to customers and realizing they wanted more education when it came to water waste. She said generally, residential customers are conscientious of water waste and fix leaks promptly.

“The idea with this legislation is to say, ‘Ok, what if they didn’t even need a fine?,’” Yuhas said. “What if we just sent them a postcard and said, ‘Hey you have a problem, why don’t you fix this?’”

According to the resolution, the first two instances of reported water waste would be met with a postcard mailed to the address where the waste occurred. On the third violation, authority staff would proceed with fines according to the ordinance.

The ordinance describes water waste as the “The nonbeneficial use of water.”

These nonbeneficial uses include landscape watering that runs off the property, sprinklers that spray off the property and a number of other violations.

Currently, fines for wasting water range from $20 to $2,000 depending on how many violations are found.

(1) First observed violation – $20;

(2) Second observed violation – $50;

(3) Third observed violation – $100;

(4) Fourth observed violation – $300;

(5) Fifth observed violation – $400;

(6) Sixth observed violation – $600;

(7) Seventh observed violation – $800;

(8) Eighth observed violation – $1,000;

(9) Each observed violation over the eighth – $2,000 each

Yuhas said the resolution can also be justified because water use has dropped significantly since the start of the conservation program 20 years ago.

“The average single family, residential household is using 55 percent less water than they did in 1995,” she said.

According to Yuhas, the current procedure for responding to reported water waste is to send an ABCWUA official to document the waste and issue a citation. Under the proposed legislation, she said, officials would not physically go to a property until the third reported violation.

The proposed resolution is on the governing board’s agenda for Wednesday night.

Water Authority officials and board members could not be reached for comment.

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