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Public Utilities

Enforcement and Penalties

The City of San Diego emphasizes education over penalties and only issues citations as a last resort. Residents are encouraged to help their neighbors by providing information on current water use restrictions.

Need to Report Water Waste?

Do you notice water being wasted, such as irrigation water running down the street, broken or misdirected sprinklers watering pavement or watering in the middle of the day? You can report water waste though the Get It Done app and website. You can download the app to your mobile devices.

If over irrigation reaches the storm drain (gutter, street or storm drain inlet) the Stormwater Enforcement Team will respond. Learn more at the City's Stormwater Department website. All other water waste concerns will be addressed by the Public Utilities' Water Waste Team.

Notice of Violation

Staff from the City’s Public Utilities and the Stormwater departments investigate reports of water waste. These staff members are tasked with educating the public as well as issuing Notices of Violation and Administrative Citations.

When a drought is declared by the Mayor and City Council, City staff issues Notices of Violations in response to confirmed water-waste complaints. A Notice of Violation does not carry any monetary penalty but informs a property owner of the violation and potential penalties. The next step in enforcement is an Administrative Citation, which can 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 the violation and to determine 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 always illegal, 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) 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.
  • Shutting off water service.

The decision to terminate water service is not taken lightly and will occur only when other enforcement measures have not been effective. The City will consider all 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.

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