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Water Cuts Would Hit 26 Southeast Cities : Drought: Reductions under consideration could result in surcharges for area residents who waste water.


DOWNEY — Residents in 26 Southeast area cities may have to pay surcharges for hosing off their driveways or wasting water in other ways.

Such sanctions are under consideration as part of a drought-contingency plan being developed by officials of the Central Basin Municipal Water District, local cities and water companies.

Later this month, the water district's board of directors is scheduled to decide whether to order a 10% reduction in supplies to city-owned and independent water companies, which provide water for businesses and residents throughout the Southeast area. The cuts would take effect Feb. 1 and eventually could result in surcharges for area residents who waste water.

The contingency plan is being developed in response to the Metropolitan Water District's decision to ration the water it sells to local agencies throughout Southern California, including the Central Basin District, starting in February. Spurred by the four-year drought, the MWD ordered cuts ranging from 5% for overall residential consumption to 20% for agricultural use. The local agencies will pay a 300% surcharge for water they use in excess of their quotas.

The MWD gets most of its water from the State Water Project and from the Colorado River. It then delivers the water to 27 local agencies. In the Southeast area, the Central Basin District sells water to local water companies, including those owned by cities such as Downey and Norwalk.

The surcharge for excessive water usage would trickle down if the Central Basin directors take action as expected.

If Southeast-area water companies do not reduce consumption from the previous year by 10%, they will have to pay nearly 70% more--$394 instead of $235 per acre-foot--for the additional water they buy, said Richard Atwater, general manager of the Central Basin District.

"I would expect everybody to meet their targets because I don't think anybody wants to pay the penalties," Atwater said. "We want everybody to participate and share in (coping with) the shortage."

Area cities, in turn, are considering ordinances that would fine residents and businesses for wasteful practices, such as hosing off driveways and filling decorative fountains. Individual city councils would have to hold public hearings and approve such sanctions.

"We all recognize there is a big problem with the drought," said Norwalk Deputy City Manager Dan Keen. "We have a real problem here that needs these kind of solutions."

City officials also said they are considering incentives, such as rate reductions, for water customers who significantly reduce consumption.

As part of the plan, local officials also plan to rely more on reclaimed waste water to cope with the drought.

Construction starts next month on a 30-mile pipeline that will carry reclaimed water from a county treatment plant in Cerritos to Downey, Santa Fe Springs and Bellflower, Atwater said. Those cities will receive their first deliveries in July. The reclaimed water, which is safe for human contact but not drinkable, would be used on golf courses, parks and by some local industry, Atwater said.

By the end of 1992, the $20-million project will eventually provide reclaimed water to South Gate, Compton, Lynwood, Commerce, Norwalk and Paramount, he said. Lakewood and Cerritos already use reclaimed water from the plant.

In 1989, for example, about 11% of the water used in Cerritos was reclaimed water, according to city officials.

The Central Basin District plans to pump 5,000 to 10,000 acre-feet of reclaimed water a year into the area, Atwater said. The district currently supplies about 140,000 acre-feet of regular water to area cities, Atwater said. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons, which is the average amount of water used by two families in a year.

The district also is urging local water companies to start pumping more water from aquifers to ease the demand for water from the State Water Project and Colorado River Aqueduct. Because of the drought, water supplies from the two sources are expected to be reduced by 15% and 25%, respectively, this year, state and federal officials have said.

Overall, cities and local water companies pump about one-third of their water from wells, Atwater said. Imported and reclaimed water accounts for the rest. But the balance varies greatly from city to city.

The cities served by the Central Basin District are Artesia, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Cudahy, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Huntington Park, La Habra Heights, Lakewood, La Mirada, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, South Gate, Vernon and Whittier.

Long Beach and Compton buy directly from the MWD but are participating in the drought contingency plan.

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