Michael Korte and Laura Whitney, who live near Los Angeles in
Glendora, said on Thursday they received a letter from the city
warning they had 60 days to green up their partially brown lawn or
pay a fine ranging from $100 to $500.
"I don't think it's right for us to start pouring water into our
lawn in the middle of July during a drought," said Whitney. "We're
kind of in a quandary about what to do."
The letter, bearing the official symbols of Glendora and its police
department, came the same week that statewide water regulators
passed emergency drought restrictions for outdoor water use. Those
regulations, to take effect this August, require cities to demand
cutbacks in water use, and empower them to fine residents up to $500
for overwatering their lawns.
California is in the third year of an extreme drought that is
expected to cost the state an estimated $2.2 billion and more than
17,000 agricultural jobs. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown declared a
drought emergency in January.
In Glendora, City Manager Chris Jeffers said the city did encourage
conservation, but that Korte's and Whitney's lawn was in such bad
shape that it was reported as possibly abandoned.
"We were responding to a complaint that we received of a possible
abandoned property," Jeffers said. "Crews visited and determined it
was not abandoned, but not kept. The landscape was dead and there
were large areas of just dirt."
Instead of citing the couple, he said, officials opted to leave a
letter explaining that conserving water did not mean abandoning the
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"Conservation does not mean neighborhoods need to deteriorate
because property owners want (the) landscape to die or go
unmaintained," he said.
Glendora's action provoked a strong response from state
environmental officials, who said such moves undermined conservation
“Throughout the state, Californians are making serious efforts every
day to cut their water use during this extreme drought," said Amy
Norris, spokeswoman for the California Environmental Protection
Agency. "These efforts to conserve should not be undermined by the
short-sighted actions of a few local jurisdictions, who chose to
ignore the statewide crisis we face."
(Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee in San Francisco; Editing by Sharon
Bernstein, Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)
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