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More Strict Water Cuts Foreseen : The drought: As the MWD plans 50% allotment reductions, recent conservation measures may not be enough. Residents and small businesses could face 25% cutbacks as soon as April 1.

March 07, 1991|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just a week after Glendale adopted mandatory water rationing, city officials are now predicting that harsher measures will be taken to meet more severe regional water cutbacks.

Water officials said that Monday's decision by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to cut regional allotments by 50% is likely to force the city to adopt mandatory reductions of up to 25% for most customers by April 1 or soon afterward.

The city receives 90% of its water from the MWD. The rest comes from local wells.

In response to the MWD's earlier decision to cut water supplies by 31%, the City Council last week approved a plan that would require residents and small businesses to reduce their water use by 15% beginning April 1. Businesses that use large quantities of water, such as coin-operated laundries and carwashes, would have been required to make a 10% reduction.

Now, officials said, the mandatory reduction may have to be 20% to 25% for the smaller users and 15% for large users.

"It doesn't look good," said Don Froelich, Glendale's water services administrator. "When you get into the 20% to 25% area, you're looking at some very significant levels of reduction. At 25%, you're cutting into the muscle of water use."

The 15% cutback, based on 1989 usage levels, will require an average household to reduce consumption by about 75 gallons of water a day, according to a report presented Tuesday to the council. Most residents could meet that requirement by eliminating lawn watering or installing inexpensive, low-flow shower heads and toilet water-displacement devices, the report stated.

But a 25% level could require homeowners to sacrifice their landscaping or install costlier water-conserving toilets, Froelich said.

Froelich said a decision may be made within several days on whether to increase the mandatory conservation levels before or after April 1. Staff members will report to the council next week on the local effect of the MWD's decision.

Meanwhile, the council voted Tuesday to spend $176,400 for the first stage of a public education and enforcement plan for rationing. The cost of the plan over the next year could reach $600,850 if mandatory cutback levels continue to rise, said Danielle Salkin, customer services administrator.

Salkin said a customer hot line opened Monday with five workers trained to answer questions and receive complaints about rationing violators. The hot line--545-4332--will be manned from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Brochures that teach homeowners and businesses how to read their own meters will be mailed out later this month, and enforcement teams such as the "droughtbuster" patrols in Los Angeles will be established by mid-March, Salkin and other staff members said.

The city also will establish a rebate program for homeowners and apartment building owners who buy and install water-saving toilets, and will offer an appeal process for customers who believe that they should receive more than their maximum allotment of water.

The brochure will tell customers how much water they used in 1989 and how much must be conserved after April 1.

Customers who use low-flow shower heads or water-conserving toilets can figure for themselves how much water they are saving. For instance, a low-flow shower head saves about four gallons of water per minute, while an "ultra-low flush" toilet saves about four gallons per flush, Froelich said.

Despite that information, customers most likely will learn how to save water through trial and error--by conserving too much or too little one month and countering it the next, he said.

"For a lot of people, they'll just sort of zero in on how to do it," he said. "When they get their first reading, they'll find they conserved more than they had to, and they'll ease up on their conservation. Others might find they were in excess and be penalized."

Under the plan adopted by the council last week, customers who do not reduce their consumption by the mandatory rate will pay double the usual rate for the extra water. Those who continue to exceed their limit will pay four times the rate. The city also has the option of installing low-flow restriction devices or disconnecting their water service, officials said.

However, customers who are billed every two months--all residential and most small business users--will be allowed to compile water "credit" if they conserve more than required. And customers who exceed their limits one month can make it up the next. Similar rules apply to large businesses and industries with a lower reduction rate.

Homeowners will be guaranteed a minimum of 6,358 gallons of water each month under the plan adopted last week. The base will decrease as the mandatory cutback increases, Froelich said.

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