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County Imposes Water-Rationing Measures in Unincorporated Areas

March 24, 1991|AMY PYLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Water conservation measures were imposed on residents of unincorporated Los Angeles County late last week when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved restrictions that include a ban on hosing down pavements and watering lawns in the daytime.

The cuts are the first phase of water conservation measures that call for more drastic rationing, expected to begin May 1. The board will hold public hearings on the rationing plan April 18. If approved, the county will be able to require water-use cuts ranging from 10% to 50%, depending on state water supplies.

The preliminary measures, which apply to about 1 million people, also prohibit leaky plumbing, automatically serving water in restaurants and filling decorative ponds or fountains that do not recycle water. Letters detailing these cuts were being mailed to residents late last week.

On the Westside, the cuts will apply to such areas as Marina del Rey, Topanga Canyon, View Park, Windsor Hills and Ladera Heights. They also will apply to Malibu, which becomes an incorporated city Thursday but will remain in a county water district.

Supervisors approved fines of up to $500 for water scofflaws who are caught by county sheriff's deputies. A county water official, however, said the fines will be assessed only in extreme cases, partly because deputies have little time to police water use.

"We feel there will be excellent compliance," said Gary Hartley, assistant deputy director of county waterworks and sewer maintenance. "People realize the drought situation we're in."

Enforcement of rationing would be stricter, with escalating bill surcharges beginning at $3 for those exceeding mandated usage. The rationing would initially apply to the estimated 250,000 people who receive their water through the county's 16 water districts.

Water companies in the rest of the county, however, have indicated that they probably will impose similar restrictions, Hartley said.

Rationing would begin May 1, with a mandatory 10% cut calculated from a regional average of water use in the area for the same month in 1990. Although averages have not been determined, Hartley said they probably will be highest in the dry Antelope Valley.

The percentages, which could increase by increments of 5% to a maximum of 50%, would be based on the amount of water released by the State Water Project. The state supplies about half of the Metropolitan Water District's water. The district, in turn, sells water to the county. Los Angeles County also draws water from the Colorado River and from wells scattered around the region.

If 50% cuts are ultimately required, Hartley said, the county will have to take more drastic action, such as banning landscape watering.

Establishing the rationing plan will give county water officials more flexibility in future dry years, Hartley said, because they will not have to return to the board for cutbacks to be approved.

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