New Mandatory Water Restrictions Won't Apply to Washing Human Feces From Sidewalks

San Francisco residents won't have to take shorter showers yet, but such measures may be in the offing.

California has apparently broken its drought record, with more than half the state reporting the most severe dryness on record since the federal government began keeping track in the early 1990s. The state's topsoil and reservoirs are drying up, wildfires have flared up in the northern and southern regions, and dairy farmers in Marin are having to truck in alfalfa since their cattle have no pasture.

And now, in San Francisco, small business owners will have to refrain from watering their sidewalks and funneling pristine Hetch Hetchy water into decorative “water devices.”

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission passed new outdoor emergency restrictions for its retail customers, ordering them to reduce outdoor watering by 10 percent. 

[jump] So far, the new rules really only pertain to luxury watering. No more hosing off ornamental landscapes, turf patches, or driveways; removal of human and animal waste is still okay, per the PUC's “health and safety” exemption. Only water customers with metered irrigation accounts will be affected, and only from mid-September until June 30, 2015. The PUC is considering an excess use charge of two times the billing rate for every unit that exceeds each customers' allocation, but commissioners won't decide on that until their next scheduled meeting.

The good news is that restrictions may end here. In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, PUC officials assured that the Hetch Hetchy regional water system is now at 61 percent its maximum storage capacity, and total water savings rose to 3.9 billion gallons on August 4 — nearly triple what it was on June 23.

If that trend continues, the release said, there may be no need for additional water restrictions. So keep on showering.

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