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Posted on January 28, 2023 in Arizona Law

Can I Be Fined for Watering My Lawn During a Drought in Arizona?

Arizona, like many western states, is experiencing a drought. Arizona relies on water from the Colorado River and the Salt and Verde Rivers. Arizona also shares water from the Colorado River with six other states through the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

Unfortunately, the Colorado River supply is dwindling, and Arizona is going to lose 21% of its Colorado River allotment in 2023. This may be devastating for Arizona residents and localities. As a result, Arizona residents can expect more restrictions on water usage in the following years. This may include restrictions on watering ornamental grass and decorative lawns.

To enforce these restrictions, local governments may assert monetary fines or even misdemeanor penalties for residents who break the rules. This means Arizona residents could end up in municipal court for watering their lawns.

What Is a Drought?

A drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions in a particular area. Droughts are caused when a region receives less rain than usual. Droughts can develop over weeks, months, or years.

Just because a region goes through a dry period doesn’t necessarily mean that it is in a drought. In fact, it is common for precipitation levels to vary from year to year. Instead, it is usually prolonged and severe dryness that forces an area into a drought.

Fortunately, droughts can be reversed over time. Years with significant rainfall combined with smart water conservation policies can help prevent and pull areas out of a drought.

What Are the Effects of a Drought?

Droughts can cause soil to dry, plants and animals to die, the water level in rivers and creeks to fall, and can strain reservoirs. When droughts happen in populated areas, governments try to save water until the drought has ended. Governments may also build infrastructure to collect water runoff and capture water more efficiently.

Local governments often implement a combination of the following policies:

  • Limiting irrigation
  • Forbidding lawn and garden watering or limiting watering to certain days
  • Banning car washing
  • Banning outdoor water features
  • Mandating pool covers to reduce evaporation
  • Incentivizing water-efficient appliances
  • Raising water rates

These policies help governments manage resources and sustain water levels to make it through a drought.

Is Phoenix, AZ, in a Drought?

Phoenix, AZ, has been in an extended drought since 2000, but our city is not unique. In fact, 671,300 Arizona residents are currently affected by a drought.

Luckily, Phoenix has access to more water than other cities in Arizona. That’s because the water in Phoenix primarily comes from snow melt in the mountains and flows into reservoirs. The water is stored in the reservoirs for use years into the future. This is different from other cities that rely on surface-level groundwater that is only replenished with rainfall.

How Does Phoenix Regulate Water?

Like many cities, Phoenix has implemented a drought management plan. In 2022, Phoenix implemented a stage 1 water alert declaration under that plan. This stage requests residents to reduce their water consumption voluntarily but does not mandate it.

The suggested ways to reduce water consumption include:

  • Taking shorter showers
  • Using water-saving appliances
  • Implementing drought-tolerant landscape
  • Fixing leaks inside the home
  • Tracking overall household water usage

That means that for now, Phoenix residents can water their lawns but should consider replacing lawns with less water-intensive plants.

What Should I Do If I Am Fined for Watering My Lawn?

If in the future, Phoenix may implement fines or criminal penalties for watering lawns during a drought. Phoenix provides resources and official guidance for residents during these kinds of conditions. However, people make mistakes, and the constantly changing water restrictions are confusing.

If you are fined or prosecuted for watering your lawn during a drought, you should reach out to a criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can help defend your honest mistake while also explaining the current law to keep you out of future trouble.

Contact the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Orent Law Offices In Phoenix To Get Legal Assistance Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorney Craig Orent. Give us a call at (480) 656-7301 or visit our law office at 11811 N Tatum Blvd UNIT 3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028. We offer a free case evaluation, so get the help you deserve today.

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