California water regulators have voted to approve fines up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing.
The action on Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board came after its own survey showed that conservation measures to date have failed to achieve the 20 per cent reduction in water use sought by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Survey results released before the 4-0 vote showed that water consumption throughout California had actually risen by 1 per cent this past May compared to the same month in previous years.
The fines will apply only to wasteful outdoor watering, including hosing down hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways.
The rules include exemptions for public health and safety, such as allowing cities to power-wash sidewalks to get rid of human waste left by homeless people.
Cities and water districts also will have wide latitude to implement the fines as they wish starting in early August.