LPD Is Tired of Being All Wet

By: Mr. Wilson on September 13, 2012
Public Safety Director Tom Casady wants LPD to get out of the water violation enforcement business, and for good reason. Lincoln police officers have contacted over 1,350 offenders this summer. That's a whole lot of time and energy that could have been spent on far more productive public safety pursuits. At the same time, watering violations aren't unimportant. We are in a severe drought after all, and we can't just brush aside individual water violations because they feel, on their own, insignificant. So how do we stop offenders while allowing LPD to focus on bigger issues? Casady wants Lincoln Water System to integrate any fines or penalties into the property owner's water bill. I have a couple ideas of my own, and Casady's idea pairs nicely with one of them. I'll put my ideas out there for you folks to rip to shreds. First, watering violations would no longer be criminal acts. Instead they would be redefined as violations of the user agreement with Lincoln Water System. LWS, then, would be the enforcement body. How would they find out about violations? Simple: any time a water restriction is imminent they would train and "deputize" a group of people -- probably volunteers -- to identify offenders. Once the water restrictions go into effect the volunteers would fan out across the city and, based on tips to a hotline and website, identify "wet bandits". They snap some photos or a few seconds of video to document the evidence, put a "you were naughty" notice on the door, and that's that. Penalties are then assessed to the owner's water bill. An alternate idea of mine -- and one that would be much trickier to put together -- involves charging exorbitant rates for "excessive" water use during periods of water restrictions. How is "excessive" determined? Each property would have a set water allowance determined by an algorithm that considers factors like number of residents and area covered by vegetation. Water rates within that allowance are low. Once the allowance is exceeded, however, rates quickly jump to higher and higher levels. The idea is that you can have that beautiful green lawn in the middle of a drought, but you're going to pay handsomely for it. Those are my two ideas. What've you got?


See what your neighbors have to say about this.

September 13, 2012 at 2:21PM

I like idea #2 if there’s an easy way to tell when the tick up to higher prices would be.

Mr. Wilson
September 13, 2012 at 2:44PM

It would be dead simple if it were possible to electronically monitor each property’s water meter in real time. LWS could email or call based on various milestones (50% of allowance used, etc).

September 13, 2012 at 3:04PM

I would consider changing the end of this phrase: “individual water violations because they feel, on their own, insignificant.” from ‘insignificant’ to ‘self-important.’

I like the idea of LWS being in charge of dishing out the penalties in a punitive way. I’m still in favor of shutting off the water to multiple-time offenders.

Tom Casady
September 13, 2012 at 4:01PM

Mind reader! 

The current tiered pricing structure could change during a declared water emergency.  Tier 1 stays the same: no extra cost for flushing and brushing.  Tier 2 goes up just a little: if you flush and brush a lot, you’ll need to turn the faucet off while brushing, and follow the old “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule.  Tier 3, however, takes a very large jump.

Or, alternatively, part-time seasonal workers equipped with digital camera and index card.  Image, date, time, address, and observation notes to LWS at end of shift on an index card, or via email or app (cc: the customer?).  Violation fee appears on next water bill. No need to wake anyone up, return three more times trying to find someone, clog up the CJ system, fill up the 911 Center’s phone lines, etc.. 

Other concepts/ideas?

Just thinkin'
September 13, 2012 at 5:00PM

Instead of limiting water based upon odd/even side of the street, how about simply dividing the town in half? North or West side gets to water Tues.,Thurs., and Sat. and South or East side waters Wed.,Fri., and Sun. It would make it easier to monitor & enforce if the enforcers did not have to monitor the entire town each day, and they would use less fuel if they did not have to drive all over town. I also think it would make it easier for home owners to understand and comply. The best way to enforce the water restriction is to make it easier to comply.

September 13, 2012 at 6:23PM

I have little hope that those who don’t understand even & odd numbers will understand cardinal directions.

September 13, 2012 at 9:27PM

We should go by last names, not of the occupant, but of the building owner. So there are 3 days for A- L, and 3 days for M-Z, plus 1 special day only for those whose last name begins with Q.

September 15, 2012 at 5:45PM

What in the…? Are you guys serious? Up fees for water usage over a certain level? If you think complaints now are bad, just wait until THAT little gem is put into place.

I think splitting the city in half is a much better idea. Saving on fuel and drive times is a great way of making the process more efficient, and it would make it a lot less confusing for some people. I would also say, stop giving warnings. It’s in the newspaper, it’s on tv, it’s on the radio. If you don’t know what’s going on, then a nice fine is going to get you clued in real fast.

I also take issue with the idea of “volunteers”. Volunteers, at least to me, means they won’t be paid. So you want unpaid people to cruise around town, lurking on people’s lawns? With the police, or lws crew, you have people with a vested interest in having people follow the law and conserve water.

Even though I dislike the idea of changing the water bill based on usage, I DO like the idea of monitoring usage. If you can target those who are using too much water, and also determine when they’re likely to use this excess water, you can drastically cut down on the time it takes to get evidence of overuse. People wouldn’t even have to report their neighbors anymore, which I know for a fact a lot of people don’t like to do.

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