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San Diego Hiring Staff To Enforce Water Restrictions

Photo caption: Victor Sandoval, a field representative for the city of San Diego's Public Ut...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Victor Sandoval, a field representative for the city of San Diego's Public Utilities Department, checks the sprinklers at a Pacific Beach home on Nov. 20, 2014.

At the beginning of November, the city of San Diego adopted mandatory water restrictions, including limits on when sprinklers can run and when plants can be watered.

At the beginning of November, the city of San Diego adopted mandatory water restrictions, including limits on when sprinklers can run and when plants can be watered. But it didn't have enough staff to proactively look for water-rule breakers.

Now that's no longer true. In December, the city hired two provisional employees to respond to water use complaints, and is hiring a third who will start Jan. 6, said Robyn Bullard, a spokeswoman for the city's Public Utilities Department.

Mandatory Water Restrictions

• Watering lawns three days a week, and limited to seven minutes per station in November through May.

• Residences with odd-numbered addresses can water on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

• Residences with even-numbered addresses can water on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays.

• Apartments, condominiums and businesses can water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

• Must use hoses with shut-off nozzles or timed-sprinkler systems to provide water to landscaped areas.

• Wash vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. in November through May.

• Water potted plants, vegetable gardens and fruit trees before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

• No watering lawns or plants on rainy days.

• Ornamental fountains must be turned off except for repairs.

The provisional employees are retired field representatives who are familiar with the job but who can only work for 90 days. Bullard said these three employees will stay with the Public Utilities Department while the city hires new field representatives and will help train the new hires.

Bullard said the new field representatives will be interviewed in January, "then they have to go through the hiring process, background check, employment check, all of that, so best-case scenario they would be in place in January."

The city already has two field representatives and another employee who respond to water waste complaints.

When the City Council approved the water restrictions in November, the Public Utilities Department said it would need seven employees, including four field representatives. To avoid spending extra money on new hires, the department planned to convert existing vacancies to the new field representative positions, Luis Generoso, the city's water resources manager, told KPBS.

"When we said that we are not going to increase our position count in our budget, that meant that for us to be able to hire these people, we would have to look for existing positions that are vacant and then try to convert those, take over those positions and use them for limited field reps up until they're no longer needed," Generoso said. "So in essence, if we had a vacancy that is not a critical fill vacancy, that maybe those could be used for this temporary position."

The vacancies used to hire field representatives were Information Systems Analyst II, Assistant Laboratory Technician, Wastewater Plant Operator and Heavy Truck Driver II, according to a status update KPBS obtained under a Public Records Act request.

The city also uses its water meter readers and Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol to report water rule breakers.

Residents and RSVP can make reports over the phone, by email and by using the city's Waste No Water mobile app.

Violators get a letter telling them to stop. If a resident reports a violation and then reports it still exists two weeks later, field representatives will call or go out to the property and explain the new rules, Generoso said. If even that doesn't work, the property owner will get a letter from the city's code enforcement unit giving another 10 days to fix the problem. If it's still not fixed, the owner will get a fine of $100, $250 or $500.

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