California couple may be charged $500 for not watering lawn, or $500 for watering it

posted at 9:21 pm on July 24, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

Ahh, government:

In this week’s “Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t” file: A Southern California couple received a letter from Glendora city officials threatening to fine them $500 if they don’t get their sun-scorched brown lawn green again, reports AP. Which Laura Whitney and Michael Korte would gladly do, except for one thing: They could also be fined $500 if they water their lawn too much; they’re currently only watering twice a week. With more than 80% of California in an extreme drought, according to the Los Angeles Times, the state water board voted this week to implement emergency conservation plans and gave the OK to fine water wasters up to $500 a day. As the board’s chairwoman noted, “A brown lawn should be a badge of honor because it shows you care about your community.”

The AP reports:

It’s brown because of their conservation, which, besides a twice-a-week lawn watering regimen, includes shorter showers and larger loads of laundry.

They’re encouraged by the state’s new drought-busting, public service slogan: Brown is the new green.

The city of Glendora sees it differently.

“Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green,” says the letter, which gives Korte and Whitney 60 days to restore their lawn.

They’re among residents caught in the middle of conflicting government messages as the need for conservation clashes with the need to preserve attractive neighborhoods.

And, of course, homeowners associations are prohibited from fining citizens for landscaping shortfalls, but local governments face no such prohibition.

Homeowners associations can’t punish residents for scaling back on landscaping under an executive order signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in April and a bill awaiting his signature. While both measures are silent on fines imposed by local governments, the governor’s office condemned moves that punish drought-conscious Californians.

We’re in the best of hands.

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