Fla. city officer scans for water violations

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One day after strict new water guidelines took effect in West Palm Beach, Florida code enforcement officers are out scanning for violators.

West Palm Beach Utilities customers are being ordered to cut their watering to just one day a week.

The penalties for violators are steep: up to $500 for a third offense.

They want everyone to obey or pay.

“They need to know it’s a very serious drought and everybody needs to actually do their part so we have enough water for everybody,” said West Palm Beach Code Enforcement Officer Donald Williams.

Williams has spent nine years as a code enforcement officer for the city of West Palm Beach and when it comes to water violations, he knows exactly what to look for.

“You can see these neighborhoods,” he said, “the lawns are well maintained, but they’re using a lot of water to do that.”

One tell-tale sign that someone has been watering when they shouldn’t is a puddle in front of their house when there’s not one in front of anyone else’s home.

“I think we’ve seen our first violation,” said Williams pulling up in front of a house in El Cid where the sprinkler system was running.

“We’ve got a violation,” he said, getting out of his car. “Let’s go ahead and knock on this door and let them know they have a violation going on here.”

The homeowner wasn’t home, so Williams left the notice by the door.

First time violators get a warning.

Williams said he spots many violations in the four to five hours he spends in the car each day, but others are called in by the public.

Someone has called in to complain about a nearby fast food restaurant.

Williams drives to the location to talk with the manager.

He tells him they’ve received a call the restaurant has been watering every day.

“I just let him know we need him to follow these restrictions and water once a week and he agreed to do that,” Williams explained. “Hopefully, I won’t have to come back, but I told him I will give him a fine if I have to come back. People are getting the word, but you find a few people who are going to violate regardless of what you’re going to tell them to do.”

City officials are hoping the fines, $75 after the first warning, $125 for a second offense and $500 for the third and any subsequent violations will make people realize how serious they are about water restrictions.