AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is cracking down on businesses that waste water. On Thursday, Austin City Council approved to amend the city code and stiffen the penalties.
The ordinance will create different sets of penalties Austin Water said are more appropriate to the types of customers and the types of violations. They want to get rid of the one-size-fits-all approach, which will mean higher penalties for commercial customers but lower penalties for homeowners.
At present, if anyone is caught watering on a different day than they’re allowed to the first violation will cost you at least $250. The second violation is at least $500 and for every violation after that at least $750.
The change approved Thursday ups that first violation for car washes and commercial irrigation to $500. Then every violation after that will cost $750.
“This is important for customers who are not using water in the best way that they should be should we find ourselves in a drought, so making sure that we have a structure in place that has a corresponding penalty and violation,” explained Vanessa Fuentes, the Austin City Council District 2 rep.
Under this change, Austin Water homeowners will pay just $25 for the first violation, which is significantly down from the $250 currently in place.
A second violation will be at least $50. Then it’ll cost anywhere from $200 to $300 at least for future violations.
Austin Water said violators will be able to pay the penalties through their utility bills. There may be exceptions for low-income families who can’t afford it.
During the 2020 fiscal year, between October 2019 and September 2020, the water utility company issued 1,308 water conservation penalty violations.
The majority of those, 97%, were issued to commercial irrigators and car washes that failed to submit required annual water-efficiency reporting.
When it comes to water waste violations, Austin Water only four residential customers got penalties and the remainder were issued to commercial customers for water waste violations.
Since December 2020, Austin Water has not issued any penalties to customers as it has decided to focus on educating, notifying and warning water customers to help them avoid violations.