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?