Prodded by five years of drought and little hope of quick relief, five Southeast cities and Long Beach have now passed water conservation measures that carry penalties for water wasters.
On Tuesday night, Norwalk became the latest city to approve an ordinance mandating that residents and businesses curb their water use until the state receives enough rain to fill alarmingly low reservoirs. The Norwalk ordinance is scheduled to take effect April 5.
The other Southeast cities with water conservation ordinances or resolutions that carry penalties are Commerce, Montebello, Santa Fe Springs and Signal Hill.
The measures are fairly uniform in that they bar residents and businesses from using water to wash down sidewalks, driveways, patios and parking lots unless required for sanitary purposes.
Lawns may not be watered more often than every other day, and not during the midday hours. Water cannot be permitted to flood or run into gutters or streets. And restaurants may not serve water unless asked for by a patron.
The penalties also are similar: warnings for first violations, fines or penalties for second offenses, and cutbacks in supplies, through the installation of flow-restricting devices, for chronic water wasters.
But the cities also have tailored their ordinances. Cities that rely heavily on imported water from the Metropolitan Water District, and less on well water, generally have been more aggressive. The MWD recently ordered its client cities to cut water consumption by 31%.
Long Beach, which obtains more than 60% of its water from the MWD, passed an ordinance earlier this month that will impose water rationing for households and businesses in May. The allocations per household or business will depend on drought conditions.
Water users in the City of Commerce are required to reduce their water usage by 10% beginning next month. The Santa Fe Springs resolution, which takes effect March 1, also requires a 10% reduction in water use in most cases.
The Montebello City Council passed an ordinance that requires residents and businesses to reduce water usage by 10%. That figure is scheduled to be boosted to 20% on Tuesday. But the Montebello ordinance only applies to customers of the municipal water system, which serves about 20% of the residents and businesses in the city, said Ayyad Ghobrial, director of public works. Four other water companies serve Montebello.
The Montebello City Council may consider expanding the ordinance to cover the entire city if the drought worsens, said Councilman Edward C. Pizzorno.
"If and when the time comes . . . we'd have to take further action," Pizzorno said.
In all the cities, those who do not meet those conservation goals face surcharges and supply cutbacks.
Signal Hill and Norwalk are opting for conservation measures without rationing.
"We're hoping we're going to get at least 10% cutback with voluntary measures," said Public Works Director Les Evans.
The Norwalk City Council on Tuesday said it would first hold a community meeting to determine the fairest way to impose mandatory cutbacks.
Norwalk Deputy City Manager Daniel E. Keen said more than 14,900 Norwalk residents and companies already reduced their water consumption by 6.5% during the last half of 1990 when compared to the same period of 1989. Those users are served by the city water department. Keen did not have figures for Norwalk water customers served by the three independent water companies that operate in the city.
"If everyone follows the conservation measures (in the ordinance) it might lead to a cutback of more than 20%," Keen said. "We want to test this ordinance out and see what kind of results we get from it."