SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) — Water officials are considering lifting penalties for residents who use too much water now that supplies are improving in many parts of the Bay Area.
The sights and sounds of flowing streams and gushing waterfalls have quickly changed the way districts approach the new year.
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Early talks focus on heavy water use penalties meant to limit use during severe drought conditions that have persisted through most of 2021.
“By the time they were put in place, we were out of the immediate drought emergency,” Marin Municipal Water District board member Larry Bragman told KPIX 5.
“Should we fine people for the restrictions put in place two months ago? I don’t think so,” Mill Valley resident Eric Rorer said.
Even without much rain so far in January, weather conditions in the river late last year have replenished once-dry reservoirs, now at 95% capacity.
John, a Mill Valley resident who did not give his last name, told KPIX 5: “They look full now, but that won’t solve the problem,” another resident said.
“We have received a great gift from this atmospheric river, it is the gift of time. Now that we have the supply, we have the time,” Bragman said.
Penalties for using too much water went into effect last month in Marin County.
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For example, a single-family home with a $950 bill would see over $600 in penalties, sending the bill north of $1,500. Bills due in February will be much lower for some customers if water officials get rid of the fines.
“Obviously we need to rethink our water situation at this point for sure,” said Mill Valley resident Eric Rorer.
The Marin Municipal Water District declared 2020 and 2021 to be the driest two consecutive winters in 100 years.
Even with heavy rains this winter filling reservoirs, some strongly believe the penalties should apply for the long haul.
“It helps some people, but some won’t come back no matter what. They will pay the fine if they have enough money and it doesn’t matter to them,” John said.
The long list of restrictions, including no outdoor irrigation, which consumes about half of the county’s water supply, will remain in effect for the time being.
Water officials will consider removing them from the table in the near future.
The Marin Municipal Water District Board of Directors meets Tuesday evening.
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A vote to repeal the sanctions would take effect immediately.