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In Ripple Effect, Water Rationing Gets Stricter : Drought: Santa Monica raises its water cutback level to 25%, reflecting the most recent Metropolitan Water District figure.


Emergency water conservation measures have not yet been formally adopted in all Westside cities, but if Santa Monica is an example, the measures could be more stringent than originally envisioned.

Santa Monica officials last week proposed a plan that would require a 20% cutback from 1990 levels. But when the plan was presented to the City Council on Tuesday night for formal adoption, the proposed cutbacks were increased to 25%.

The adopted plan will require residents to cut back water consumption by 25% of 1990 levels, effective April 1.

Craig Perkins, the city's environmental services manager, said the additional 5% cutback reflects the Metropolitan Water District's most recent figures. The MWD, which supplies water to 27 agencies from Ventura to San Diego, said this week its cutbacks would be increased from the 20%, announced last week, to 25% by May 1.

Most Westside cities are expected to adopt plans incorporating 25% cutbacks within the next few weeks.

The Southern California Water Co., which provides water purchased in part from MWD for residents in Culver City and the unincorporated areas of Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights, is filing an application with the state Public Utilities Commission to recover from its customers any penalties imposed on it by the MWD for not achieving reductions in water usage.

Rusty Hodges, district superintendent for the water company, said his agency does not have the authority to levy fines and would be seeking only to recover fines. He said he expects to notify customers of savings goals by May 1.

The unincorporated county areas of Malibu and Marina del Rey currently do not have mandatory water conservation measures, such as limits on watering lawns and on washing vehicles. However, such measures are expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors in two weeks, according to Jim Noyes, deputy director of the county's public works department.

Noyes said a mandatory rationing program designed to meet MWD's cutbacks is expected before the board in mid-March.

The Los Angeles City Council last week imposed a mandatory 10% cutback effective Friday, to be followed by a 15% cutback May 1. Customers will receive notices in early March telling them the number of gallons they must conserve to avoid fines.

Those who exceed the limits will have to pay a $3 fine for every 748 extra gallons used, plus 15% of the total water bill for the first offense. Those committing offenses a second time will face the same $3 fine plus 25% of their total water bills. Third-time violators will face a $4 fine and a 75% surcharge. Service could be cut off to those who are cited a fourth time.

However, because of MWD's announcement this week, the 15% cutback scheduled for May may be increased to at least 20%.

Beverly Hills city officials are still developing a water rationing plan. The matter will be discussed tonight before the Public Works Commission.

Robert Bammes, the city's public works administrator, said cutbacks are likely to be tied to 1989 water-use levels. Although he was not sure earlier this week whether a 20% or 25% cutback would be required, he said the goal would be to achieve the MWD cutbacks.

A proposed plan is expected to be presented to the City Council at its March 19 meeting.

West Hollywood is in the unusual position of getting half of its water from Beverly Hills and half from Los Angeles. Kevin Hendrick, manager of West Hollywood's environmental services division, said he is developing a proposal to present to his City Council on Monday.

He said specifics were being worked out, but essentially the proposal would adopt goals and penalties established by the two water districts that provide water to their residents.

Hendrick said that in addition to the rationing plan, the city's existing water conservation measures would probably be strengthened to limit the days the residents could water their lawns.

Santa Monica's plan will mean that the average single-family household--which now uses about 348 gallons a day--will have to reduce water use by about 90 gallons a day. The average household in a multifamily building would have to reduce its water use by about 45 gallons a day from the current level of 182 gallons a day.

However, there would be no reductions required of any single-family household whose water usage is at or below 16 billing units (197 gallons per day) per billing period (usually two months) or any multifamily household whose water use is at or below nine billing units (111 gallons per day) per billing period.

Those levels are between 40% and 45% below the average 1990 consumption levels.

Surcharges for exceeding the cutback levels will range from $4 per billing unit for the first occurrence to $32 for the fourth occurrence. In the case of flagrant excessive uses, the city may install a flow restricter in the water service line or temporarily shut off service.

An appeal process is also established for residents who can show they need a larger allotment because, for example, of an increase in the number of people living in a household.

The City Council also agreed to strengthen its existing water conservation measures. The most significant change is a ban on the filling of swimming pools, spas or decorative ponds for the duration of the drought emergency.

Penalties are also being doubled for households that do not replace existing plumbing fixtures with low-flow ones.

The council also agreed to recommend to the city Rent Control Board that landlords who have installed low-flow fixtures be allowed to pass on to their tenants 75% of any penalties imposed for exceeding water usage. The board is expected to address the recommendation tonight.

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