Santa Cruz County

Thousands in water fees forgiven at Santa Cruz water school


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - So-called water wasters are heading back to school, for a chance to have expensive bills forgiven.  Santa Cruz's water district said it's a one-time opportunity for residents using more than their fair share.

NewsChannel 5 sat through the Monday night class and learned there are many ways to conserve water and stay within a water budget.  More than 30 people were in water school and even had to take a quiz at the end.

"Oh my gosh.  Wow, just a busy lifestyle and I'd got the warning beforehand and before I knew it then this came and then, kapow," said resident Paul Powers.

Powers said that was his reaction when a bill for $700 showed up in his mailbox.  He'd gone over his allotment of 249 gallons per household per day - so his rates went through the roof.  But thanks to water school, those fees aren't going down the toilet.

Your toilet is a place that commonly leaks.  To figure out if you have a leak you can lift the lid, drop in a special blue tablet and check the bowl 15 minutes later to see if the water is blue.  That's where Dean Noel's troubles started.  But now he's saving a chunk of money by sitting through the two-hour class.

"The toilet was leaking, he never told me.  And I could hear it every once in a while.  $125 was written off my bill, it's a cool thing," Noel said.

Santa Cruz city officials said it's the first water district in the state to provide the class and most people walk away with good information.

"People are relieved to have this as a tool to repeal those excess use penalties," said Santa Cruz water conservation representative Amanda Bunte.

Water wasters said learning about the city water system, drought and how to conserve water is helpful.  Right now residents are under water restrictions according to the city's water shortage contingency plan.  But businesses, including the city, aren't under those same restrictions.  That's something some residents don't agree with.

"I feel like they could be forced to cut back their usage percentage or something because it shouldn't just all fall on the residents," said resident Allison Cruz.

Water wasters were also given the chance to ask questions and share their ideas on new ways to come up with more water.  The city employees who lead water school said more than $17,000 worth of fees were forgiven at Monday night's class alone.

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