Outdoor Water Ban Causes Tensions

Published 08/14 2014 09:38PM

Updated 08/14 2014 11:44PM

The community of Madera Ranchos is now under an outdoor water ban as the county faces an unprecedented drought. And it's turning neighbor against neighbor.

The Stage 4 water conservation effort affects those homes using county wells, while private well owners are not under the restrictions. There's no watering lawns, washing cars or filling swimming pools until further notice.

"You will see some people with really lush large pieces of grass and some people trying to conserve. Then this came about and it's become more and more a concern for everybody," Vince Guthrie, a Madera Ranchos resident said.

Guthrie has a private well and is not under the outdoor watering ban. But says he has watched tensions rise in the neighborhood as restriction tightened.

Strict fines are handed down to those who don't follow the outdoor water ban. The first offense is $75, $125 for the second and $175 for the third.

"They are very pricey and some people are wiling to pay them in order to keep up with their landscaping because it is cheaper to do that than it is to re-landscape," Guthrie said.

Richard Sylver says he put a lot of money and pride into his yard. Faced with not being able to water, he worries about his property value.

"If everything goes dead who is going to want to buy a piece of property out here. Your property values are going to plummet and nobody is going to want to buy a house in a place that has no water," Sylver said.

With so much at stake Sylver says many neighbors are using social media to tell on neighbors breaking the outdoor water ban.

"We call them the water cops, water patrol. Now there's been things that have come up on Facebook. We have quiet a few pages, 'Keeping Ranchos Safe,' 'What's happening in Ranchos.' And you have people snitching on other people," Sylver said.

With water levels in wells so low it is affecting everyone's water pressure, some believe neighbors are just looking for someone to blame.

"Everyone is pointing fingers," Guthrie said. "It's the county's fault or the people who are over watering and over usings fault. Regardless we all have our straws in the same pond."

There is no telling when that pond will be full again. The outdoor water ban is in effect until further notice. The county hopes to get a 50 percent reduction in water usage.

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