What Happens to People Who Ignore Water Restrictions?

We've received several emails from viewers, telling us they continue to see people watering outdoors, despite the ban mandated by the State of Georgia. So what happens to those people if they're caught? In some parts of the state, people who ignore the water ban face hefty fines, court dates, and sometimes even face having their water cut off, but officials with Columbus Water Works say it's just not that simple here.

The Water Works has issued 140 tickets in the past three months, but no money has been collected. Vice President Bob Tant says that while the city can ticket offenders, but they can't actually fine them. That's because there's no law in Columbus that allows them to do so.

"We don't have an ordinance about water bans and restrictions, and that would be the basis for any fining authority. We've never levied a fine, nor do we plan to. If things got to the point that we felt we had to do that, we'd have to go seek that authority," Tant explained.

But that doesn't give you free reign to water whenever you want.  There are ways the water works can punish you.

"I guess the ultimate penalty for us would be we'd take your water meter out. Then you can't waste water or use water anywhere. But that's a pretty severe step even then," Tant said.

He says he's pleased with most customers' willingness to comply with the water restrictions. He says so far, there hasn't been a need to levy fines.

"Our experience in Columbus has been once we explain the problem, if people know about the situation, we're in an extreme drought, once that word gets out, then people understand, by and large, they will comply," Tant said.

If you see someone violating the water restrictions, theColumbus Water Works encourages you to talk with your neighbors to make sure they're aware of the watering ban. If you find someone intentionally ignoring it, you can always report them.