The Santa Ana City Council Tuesday night declared a water shortage and unanimously approved restrictions on consumption, with violators facing financial penalties or even restrictors that reduce the rate of water flow to a person’s business or home.

With the shortage declared, water users will have to reduce their water use by 3 percent over the same billing period from the prior year. For example, a person’s monthly water bill will have to show the required reduction when compared to the same month for the previous year, according to the city’s water resources manager, Nabil Saba. 

Also, watering lawns, landscape and other turf is restricted to every other day between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.; commercial nurseries and golf courses are only allowed to water between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and “water leaks, breaks, or other malfunctions” must be fixed within 72 hours, a staff report states.

Those who don’t reduce their water use by the required amount will face a warning notice for the first violation, a 15 percent surcharge for the second violation, and a third “will result in the installation of a water flow restrictor,” according to the staff report.

The restrictor would reduce the rate of water flow. But Saba said city officials are first going to see whether the monetary penalties are successful in reducing consumption before they start implementing water restrictors.

If the number of people living in a household has gone up since last year, a provision in new regulations gives homeowners 15 days after they receive their next city water bill to file a written request for an exemption. The city is sending out a special letter about the new restrictions.

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento, a board director at the Orange County Water District, which manages the groundwater aquifer, said city residents already use less water because of a 2009 ordinance that called for permanent water conservation measures.

“We’re just doing a few steps more that we think will help with this very severe condition,” Sarmiento said. “We’re already doing our fair share.”

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