Enforcement and Penalties
The City of San Diego is enforcing the current water use restrictions by using staff from the Public Utilities and the Transportation and Storm Water departments. These staff members are tasked with enforcement, which recently shifted from educating the public and working with residents/businesses to issuing warning notifications, Notices of Violation and Administrative Citations.
City staff issue Notices of Violations in response to confirmed water-waste complaints. A Notice of Violation does not carry any monetary penalty. The next step in enforcement is an Administrative Citation. These citations carry fines of $100, $250, $500 and up to $1,000.
If a violation is reported but not verified, or there is no evidence linking the waste to a customer, then a warning notification is issued instead of a Notice of Violation. The case is assigned to a City Code Enforcement Officer who will then follow up with a site visit to verify if corrective action has taken place. If not, an Administrative Citation can be issued on the spot.
Violations are treated per property, not fixture. A property owner who has been given a Notice of Violation for a broken sprinkler head can be issued an Administrative Citation for the next violation observed on the same property, even if it is a different leak or broken fixture.
All water waste is prohibited in Section 67.3803 of the San Diego Municipal Code. Wasting water is illegal at all times, even when no drought response levels are in effect. Any violations of the water-use restrictions associated with Drought Response Levels 1-4 ( SDMC Sections 67.3805- 67.3808 (PDF: 46K) are also treated as water waste. The City may penalize those who continue to waste water with an escalating series of penalties up to and including shutting off water service. When customers continue to waste water after being contacted by the Public Utilities Department's Water Conservation staff, the City's Code Enforcement Section can step in.
Should a customer refuse to stop overwatering, fail to repair a leak or continue other water waste, the Code Enforcement Officer or Water Waste Investigator will fashion an appropriate response.
As with any violation of the San Diego Municipal Code, Code Enforcement Officers have a variety of remedies to help ensure compliance. These remedies always begin with education regarding the restrictions and information about resources available from the City to assist in complying with regulations. The remedies also include an escalating series of remedies, including:
- Notice of Violation;
- Administrative Citations ($100, $250, $500, $750, and $1,000);
- Referral to the City Attorney's Office for civil or criminal prosecution; and
- Shut off of water service.
The decision to terminate water service is not taken lightly and will occur when other enforcement measures have not been effective. The City will consider all of the following as part of its decision regarding appropriate remedies to employ:
- Drought Response Level in effect;
- Prior enforcement remedies applied;
- Public health and safety;
- Amount of water being used in violation;
- Impact of the violation