A new law that would have established penalties for big water users in Paso Robles was shot down by city leaders this week.
At its July 7 meeting, the Paso Robles City Council had originally approved penalties for single-family residential water consumers who use more than 25 units of water per month — or 18,700 gallons. (A unit is 748 gallons.)
The goal was to penalize the city’s largest water consumers in an effort to get those users to cut back. State mandates say Paso Robles must reduce its water consumption by 28 percent between June 2015 andFebruary 2016, compared with 2013.
But at the July 21 council meeting, some citizens said the ordinance would unfairly penalize large property owners that have worked to save water but may still exceed the 25-unit monthly limit, according to a city staff report.
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An amended ordinance that included an appeal process for large water users was then developed, but the entire penalty plan was ultimately denied at the council’s Aug. 4 meeting in a 4-1 vote.
Mayor Steve Martin made the motion to deny the plan with Councilman Jim Reed seconding it, agreeing that the rules were unfair to some residents.
Councilman Fred Strong dissented, saying the city was still obligated to find ways to meet the state’s mandated water cutbacks.
The fines would have been a $10 penalty per unit for those who use between 25 and 50 units per month and $20 per unit for those who use 50 units a month or more. About 78 percent of the city’s residential customers used 25 units or fewer during 2014 summer months; while the other 22 percent of customers accounted for nearly half of the city's residential consumption, according to city water records.