[LA FEATURE] Running Dry

LA FEATURE

Coverage of California's three-year dry spell, one of the most severe droughts on record

Neighborhood Safety App Allows Users to Report Local Water Waste

The community reporting app has added a drought section inspired by the social media hashtag #droughtshaming

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A new app allows people to post pictures to shame neighbors into conserving water. Hetty Chang reports from Brentwood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 25, 2014. (Published Friday, Jul 25, 2014)

    Want to know how to report on your water-wasting neighbor?

    There's an app for that.

    The community safety app Vizsafe on Wednesday introduced a section that allows people to share reports of water waste with their neighborhood. Users can anonymously take photos of the waste and map the location, for all to see, including law enforcement.

    Pasadena, Arcadia Consider Tough Water Usage Rules

    [LA] Pasadena, Arcadia Consider Tough Water Usage Rules
    After the state last week imposed tight restrictions on residents with the threat of $500 a day fines for water wasters during the historic California drought, the cities of Pasadena and Arcadia are considering emergency water restrictions. Beverly White reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 11 on Monday, July 21, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014)

    Vizsafe, a Rhode Island-based company, initially created the app in April for users to report anything from traffic accidents and lost pets to crimes in their neighborhoods.

    Developers added the "drought" category to the app after seeing social media users in California complaining about their neighbors' public water waste -- all under the hashtag #droughtshaming, Vizsafe founder and CEO Peter Mottur said.

    "There's a lot of focus on turning to social media to identify neighbors that may not be following rules with respect to water conservation," Mottur said. "It recently occurred to us our platform is well suited for that."

    Some residents aren't comfortable with directly approaching their neighbors about their water use, Mottur said, calling the app a "public service" that allows neighbors to hold each other accountable to water conservation regulations.

    Earlier this month, California officials banned public water waste and introduced fines of up to $500 a day for violators. Some Southern California communities are considering even stricter regulations.

    For some, drought-shaming may be a more effective punishment than the fines, said West LA resident Karl Stelter.

    "I think public shaming is terribly worse than the $500 fine," Stelter said. "Five hundred dollars, depending on who you are, maybe it's like, 'Ah, whatever, I'll chance it.'"

    In addition to mapping users' "drought-shaming" directly on the map, the app also creates reports from Twitter. Any Tweet using the hashtag #droughtshaming that also includes a photo and a location tag is automatically fed into the Vizsafe drought feed, Mottur said.

    Brentwood resident Michael Budd on Friday posted a video of water running into the drain outside the Brentdood Country Club. Budd told NBC4 that abundant water waste in his neighborhood "infuriates" him.

    "People are taking water for granted," he said. "We don't want to wait for the day that California actually is in such a severe drought that we don't have clean water."

    The country club said the run-off may be from new landscaping intended to conserve water, and that it is aware of drought restrictions.

    For other Southern California Vizsafe users, residents and homeowners are the ones at fault for wasting water.

    "Way to hose down your entire sidewalk… TWICE," read one anonymous user's report of a neighbor’s outdoor water use in South Gate on Thursday morning.

    Another report, fed into the Vizsafe app from Twitter, complained that a neighbor near Culver City "has the greenest lawn and dirt free gutter since she waters EVERY SINGLE DAY."

    Mottur said Vizsafe hopes to make local water enforcement agencies and other organizations aware of the app so they can track water waste in the area.

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