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Bradley Seeks a Contingency Plan for Water Rationing : Environment: Mayor asks the DWP to draw up a blueprint with tough penalties. But local agencies say they can't do anything without the cooperation of governments in the areas they serve.

March 23, 1990|FREDERICK M. MUIR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Harasick, a DWP engineer with the conservation department, said that since the city entered Phase 1 of its emergency water conservation plan in April, 1988, the DWP has received 3,000 reports from concerned citizens and city employees. About 1,500 people received a warning letter, fewer than 100 have received more than a second warning letter and no one's water has been restricted or shut off, Harasick said.

Bradley was in Saudi Arabia this week and not available for comment.

His chief of staff, Fabiani, said, "It's clear people and businesses have to be reminded" that conservation is the law.

"We need to let the (public) know that we are in Phase 1 and may go to Phase 2," which is rationing at 90% of normal use, Fabiani said. "We can't go to (rationing) without giving people an opportunity to comply." Rationing would require a recommendation of the mayor and approval by the City Council.

John Stodder, an aide to Bradley on environmental matters, said: " 'Mandatory' is always in quotes for any environmental program." He said police and other city resources "are always going to go to the highest priority," such as drugs and gangs, rather than to leaky sprinklers.

If the city does begin rationing, Bradley's staff is seeking to have the law amended so that there would be greater emphasis on financial penalties and less on the threat of a service shutoff.

As currently written, Phase 2 of the law calls for offenders to be charged a penalty of 15% of their bill plus $1 for each billing unit over the amount allowed. Multiple violations could lead to installation of flow restricters and eventually to a service shutoff.

The financial penalties, Stodder said, are "more efficient and easy to administer." Shutoffs require a lot of staff hours, he said.

Still, some communities with severe water shortages, such as Santa Barbara, have hired "water cops" to patrol the streets looking for homeowners who violate the ban on watering lawns.

"At this stage, it is not worth the the cost of daily enforcement" in most of the Southland, said the MWD's Malinowsky. "It's expensive to mount a cavalry of water cops. Whether you do that or not is a function of how bad things get."

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