'Water cops' seek sprinkler scofflaws in drought-parched California

Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:01pm EDT
 
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By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - It was still dark on Kokomo Drive in Sacramento's Natomas district as Paul Brown edged his city-issued Honda Civic past a row of beige stucco houses with tiny front lawns, looking for water wasters.

He heard the scofflaws before he saw their lush green lawns amid the otherwise parched turf. The buzz of a sprinkler system gave them away on a day that the city, desperate to save water amid California's ongoing drought, had forbidden watering.

"If I can get a good picture - if there's a lot of water - I'll cite them," he said.

California is in the third year of a devastating drought that has led farmers to fallow nearly half a million acres of cropland, threatened fish hatcheries and shrunk drinking water supplies for some communities.

To get people to conserve, many municipalities and regional water agencies have hired "water cops" like Brown to enforce state conservation rules.

Cities have even asked people to turn their neighbors in, and some have created smartphone apps to make the process easier.

Brown, 46, a father of four who was hired by the city as a meter reader, said he picked this area because he has fielded numerous complaints from neighbors about water wasters.

Camera and citation book in hand, he parked the car a few houses down and got out, walking swiftly to the house where the sprinklers were on. A flash illuminated the building's facade, then all was dark again.   Continued...

 
City of Sacramento water conservation official Steven Upton walks back to his truck after delivering a citation to a home where sprinklers are running on a mandatory "no watering" day, in this August 15, 2014 file photo taken in Sacramento, California.   REUTERS/Max Whittaker/Files