SAN JOSE -- More than seven months into the California drought, San Jose has officially declared a city-wide water shortage, asking the city's 1 million residents to cut their water use by 20 percent -- but there will be no new consequences for those who don't.
The drought declaration, which the San Jose City Council unanimously approved Tuesday, makes it illegal for property owners to use potable water to irrigate their lawns or landscaping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. through April 2015. It comes on top of several state and regional rules already in effect, such as bans on cleaning vehicles without a shut-off nozzle and filling non-recirculating decorative fountains with potable water.
In addition, the council moved to work with regional water officials to explore a new recycled water facility, create a new program to reward water savers and hire teens for a new campaign to aid property owners.
With California enduring its worst drought in four decades, state rules passed last month require water agencies to limit water use and allow them to punish offenders with fines up to $500.
But San Jose will not be enforcing its new rules independently. Instead, it will rely on the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is already hiring 10 "water cops" to crack down on those who abuse drought restrictions starting next month.
San Jose is not ready to fine water wasters, unlike a small number of California cities, such as Sacramento, Pleasanton and Santa Cruz. Instead, San Jose is focusing on education, hoping residents voluntarily follow the new rules after a fresh round of outreach on what they can do to cut water use.
"A lot of times the community is just unaware," said Kerrie Romanow, the city's environmental services director.
San Jose residents have reduced water use by about 14 percent this year. The state, the water district -- and now, the city -- are asking for a 20 percent reduction.
If the drought worsens, the city could enact tougher restrictions, such as complete bans on washing cars and watering lawns at all times.
The drought declaration comes after the city had moved earlier this year to cut water use as its public facilities by shutting of fountains that did not use recycled water and reducing landscaping, for instance. Following suit, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to move forward with a proposal to cut water use at its public buildings by 25 percent.
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.