Some Utah residents are being fined for using irrigation water during restricted times. Drought conditions are forcing water agencies to charge fines and shut off access in hopes of encouraging residents to conserve.
Since the Fourth of July, water restrictions in Farmington have prohibited the use of irrigation water from 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays to 8:00 a.m. on Mondays. Residents who violate restrictions will have their water turned off until they pay a fine.
For the first offense, the fine is $50, for the second offense $250. For the third offense, the water will be shut off for the rest of the year.
“This last weekend is when we really, really instigated the fines. We had 400 citations issued in that 48-hour period,” said Paul Hirst, a Benchland Water Improvement District trustee member.
In order to enforce the water restrictions, the district has eight employees working one of four 12-hour shifts during the weekend.
“When they issue that many citations, they’re just going, almost literally from house to house. There’s not any room to sit around and think,” Hirst said.
The estimated enforcement cost for the season to ratepayers is $100,000. The collected fines will be used to help offset the cost.
Despite the high price tag, Hirst said enforcement is less expensive than the alternative.
“The reason that we are doing this is that the cost to buy extra water far, far exceeds the cost of hiring these people to do this work for us,” Hirst said.
Although many residents were fined last weekend, Hirst said no one has committed a third offense and had their water permanently shut off. He is hoping enough water will be conserved through the restrictions to last the district into October.