Lawns may be browner, cars dirtier and more sidewalks covered with leaves, but Los Angeles' water rationing effort has reduced consumption by record numbers.
According to the Department of Water and Power, water use in the city was down 18.4% from June through October, the hottest and thirstiest time of the year. This marks the lowest water consumption in Los Angeles in the last 18 years at a time when the population has grown by an estimated 500,000.
It also means Los Angeles is using less water than it did a quarter of a century ago, said S. David Freeman, the DWP's interim general manager.
Other cities and utilities have reported drops in usage, with Los Angeles apparently in the lead, as they attempt to make do during a three-year drought. Customers of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have reduced use by more than 10%. Consumption in Beverly Hills is down 13% and Huntington Beach has reduced use 10%.
In November, water use in Long Beach, the second-largest city in the county, was the lowest in 12 years.
In June, Los Angeles enacted tough conservation efforts. Sprinklers can be used only two days a week to water lawns and for only 15 minutes maximum, and no watering is allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, residents are not allowed to clean driveways or sidewalks with a hose, and if a hose is used to wash a car, it must have a shut-off nozzle.
The DWP also has reduced the amount of water customers can buy at the cheapest price
The DWP's 15 water control officers, acting mainly on complaints via e-mail, phone calls and Twitter messages, have handed out 2,379 warnings. They gave 105 citations from June 1 through Dec. 4 to violators of the conservation rule who had previously received a warning. Twelve customers had been cited twice, four had been cited three times and one customer had been caught violating the rules four times.
Those cited are fined $100 for residential violations and $200 for commercial properties, with the fine increasing for each violation.
The biggest cutback in DWP water usage came from government customers, which lowered usage by 28.8%, followed by single-family houses with a 23.2% reduction, commercial property at 15.2%, multifamily residential at 15.2% and industrial at 2.9%. Los Angeles city departments cut back by 31%.
The drop in water use by DWP customers equates to 17.6 billion gallons over the last five months. They have cut usage by 37.7 billion gallons of water since July 2007, according to the utility.
"Living in a desert-like environment with a limited water supply, it is imperative that we limit our water consumption and get smarter about our water use," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "I'm proud of Angelenos and thank them for answering the call and helping us save record amounts of water over the past five months."