AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin Water is citing three times the number of lawn watering violators so far this year than in the first six months of 2012.
The utility credits more enforcement of the city's revised 'water use management' plan that went into effect last September.
Austin Water spokesperson Geneva Barrett Guerrero said the company is hiring more part-time staff this summer to fan out in neighborhoods where its has received complaints.
"Patrols of water conservation staff are scheduled throughout the week, including weekends and overnight shifts," Barrett Guerrero said in an email. "Patrols are increased as needed with additional staff time to process violations and respond to customer reports."
She also said when a staff member witnesses a violation, it is documented and photos are taken. Currently the customer receives one warning before a citation or fine, starting at $475, is issued. As the drought worsens, Austin Water has the option of forgoing warnings.
One man who lives in the tree-lined South Austin neighborhood of Shady Hollow said he spots dozens of violators during his morning walk.
"People (are) running sprinklers three, four, five days a week, he told us on condition we not identify him in case his neighbors pointed the finger of blame his way if they receive a watering violation.
"In three weeks' time, if someone's running their sprinklers three times a week, they're probably using a couple thousand gallons of water," he said.
Austin Water's website shows the stiffer restrictions adopted last September in response to Drought Response Stage 2 Restrictions. The rules also break down who can water on which weekday, based on an even or odd street address.
So far this year, the city has cited 315 homeowners, according to a Public Information Request made. That's more than three times the number in the first half of last year. And more than the total of 240 from 2012.
Washing your car by hand or staging a charity car wash is frowned upon in Austin this summer, but it's still okay to water your grass with a hand-held hose or bucket, according to the Austin Water site.
"I think they need to be a lot more strict," the homeowner in Shady Hollow said. "Every year here the population is growing, the water supply is not."
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