Valley Drought 2014: Restrictions Lead to Drop in Water Usage in Some Cities

On the day that California approves tougher watering restrictions, how effective have current restrictions been across the Central Valley?

"We're down 10 to 15 percent from previous years," says Samuel Escobar, City Manager of Orange Cove.

The city enacted tougher watering restrictions after learning it would be receiving less water this year.

Its sole water source is the Friant/Kern Canal.

The water flows from Millerton Lake.

"At first we had a little battle with people watering. Complaints of people watering at two in the morning so they could get away with it," Escobar says.

From February to April, people were not allowed to water outside at all.

In May, people were allowed to water two days a week, depending on the last number in their address.

Since May, Orange Cove Police Officers have handed out 75 warningsbut not any citations.

The first citation results in a $100 fine.

A second citation, $200 and a third $300.

Evangelina Regalado says her garden doesn't have as many plants as in past years.

"The ones I have are doing alright," she says. But she adds the justification is simple: "So many people around here work in the fields. If there's no water, there's no work."

Escobar adds that Orange Cove is home to three packinghouses.

"They're understanding it better because they're dealing with it first hand," he says.

Hector Vicuna says he's taking the restrictions in stride.

"We have just enough water to take a shower and do the laundry," he says.

He was adjusting the sprinklers outside his home Tuesday afternoon.

He has been following the restrictions, and says his lawn has stayed green.

"I only water it, no more than five minutes. I try to understand the city," Vicuna says.

Other cities that have adopted tougher restrictions say, they're seeing results, too.

In Visalia, tougher restrictions were put in place in April.

City Spokeswoman Nancy Loliva says water use dropped 17 percent in April, 12 percent in May, and 9 percent in June, compared to the previous year.

Since April, 749 notices have been issued, and 37 citations have been handed out.

People receive one notice, then are fined $100 for the first offense.

That amount increases by $100 every offense.

In Selma, more than 100 warnings have been handed out since April, but no citations.

"It's an issue of education, and not punishing people," says Jerry Howell, with Selma Code Enforcement.

Residents in Selma receive three warnings, and then a $500 citation.

Fresno has had restrictions in place for years, limiting which days people can waterbased on the last number of their address.

Those with even numbers water one day, odd the other.

"The city of Fresno has been a leader when it comes to water conservation and is already in compliance with many of the restrictions proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board," wrote Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd in a statement.

The current fine for those found violating the water restrictions is $45.