Water wasting fines are likely for some LA residents

As California’s weather gets warmer, fines for wasting water in unincorporated, standalone areas of Los Angeles County are expected to rise sharply.

On Tuesday, Feb. 10 the Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to a measure that would boost water-wasting fines from $100 to $100 for each offense. The increase would also bring the county into line with state conservation efforts, if it receives final approval in the coming weeks as expected.

Local water companies will be required to notify customers of the bigger fines.

About 1.1 million people live in one of the scores of unincorporated areas within the county, including Altadena, Lennox and Del Aire near LAX, Rancho Dominguez, and Windsor Hills and Baldwin Hills north of Inglewood.

LA County’s current schedule of penalties, adopted in response to drought conditions in 2008, call for violators to get a warning for a first offense.

“A warning is usually enough to get most people to stop wasting water,” spokeswoman for Supervisor Don Knabe said.

Last summer, California regulators approved fines for washing cars, watering lines, or hosing down sidewalks after the figures showed that residents have increased their water consumption. It was the first emergency conservation measures passed, attempting to wake up Californians to the years-long, dangerously dry spell.

LA water conservation regulations, which are similar to rules adopted by the state and other cities/counties, prohibit hosing down sidewalks and driveways, and also put restrictions on washing cars at home.

Watering a lawn or other landscaping between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm is prohibited. Property owners also are required to fix plumbing leaks quickly, and restaurants can only offer customers water when asked.

Governor Jerry Brown urged a voluntary 20 percent reduction in water use last July. However, the State Water Resources Control Board said in a water district survey that consumption has actually increased, compared with a year ago.

“Not everybody in California understands how bad the drought is…and how bad it could be,” said Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus. “There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state.”

Amid California’s ongoing drought, a recent report by the UCLA California Center for Sustainable Communities published on Curbed Los Angeles discovered which LA neighborhoods were wasting and saving the most water. It found that Southern California is the most water-wasting area in the whole state.

The Pacific Palisades had the highest water usage, as well as the highest average income of the 13 neighborhoods studied in the report. Sherman Oaks came in second on the list of water offenders. Venice in West LA had the lowest water usage, and was found to be relatively conservative with its H20.

The report also found that cities in the San Francisco Bay Area that tap into the neighboring Colorado River reduced their use, as well as Sacramento River communities. However, the Water Resources Control Board reported last year that at least 80 percent of the state is experiencing “exceptional drought conditions,” low reservoir supply, and the worst drought in decades.

The UC survey figured that the drought will cost California’s economy at least $2.2 billion and about 17,000 jobs from the recession.

In general, regardless of an area’s wealth, when water prices rise, everyone becomes more conservative, according to the study. It also suggested that these findings of higher water prices in conjunction with mandatory restrictions would be the “most effective” combination for water-saving.

(With reports from Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Curbed LA)

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