By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose Water officials filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission Friday, seeking permission to begin charging fees to their customers who exceed set water use restrictions put in place during the current extreme drought conditions.

If approved, South Bay residents will need to get ready to pay up or cut back.

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It has been four months since San Jose Water asked their customers to cut back, but appealing to their conscience is not working. Now, utility officials are going after their wallets.

“I think people should be aware that there’s great reason to be concerned,” said San Jose Water representative Liann Walborsky.

Walborsky said when the company asked for a voluntary cutback of 15-percent back in June, San Jose Water did see a steady decline in use. One percent in June, six percent in July, and eight percent in August.

“I think it’s very hard to get people to completely change their behavior. And I think we made progress,” said Walborsky. “So we wish it had been more, but we encourage people to continue their conservation.”

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San Jose Water is setting the reduction threshold at 15% of 2019 use. Any customers who exceed that usage target will be hit with a $7.13 surcharge per unit. A unit is 100 cubic feet of water, or 748 gallons.

2021 has been the second straight year of drought. In the winter of 2020, San Jose had its lowest amount of rainfall in its recorded history, about a third of normal.

“It’s hard to imagine that people don’t understand the severity of the drought. Please conserve, please follow the regulations we’ve set up,” said Walborsky. “We all are in this together, we don’t know what Mother Nature will bring this winter.”

Homeowner James Baker is not sure a penalty will be a deterrent.

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“It’s pretty darn expensive right [now] already,” said Baker. “We’ll see whether the fee changes people’s behavior. It may or may not.”