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L.A. County supervisors to vote on controversial water conservation plan

LA County supervisors to vote on water conservation plan

Los Angeles County supervisors are slated to vote Tuesday on a conservation plan aimed at sharply reducing water use in the Antelope Valley, Malibu and Topanga areas to comply with state drought mandates.

Under the proposal, most commercial water users and multifamily residential units in the Antelope Valley that are served by the county waterworks district would be required to cut back by 32% from their 2013 usage. In the Malibu and Topanga areas, the reductions would be 36%. Those who go over the target would face penalty charges that would double or triple the cost of water. 

For most residential customers, the target figure would be calculated based not on their own usage but by deducting the percentage reduction from the entire area's average usage in 2013. That has drawn an outcry from residents with large families or properties, some of whom would be required to cut their use by as much as 80%.

Some said they have already done as much as they can to cut back.

Allen Khosrawabadi of Lancaster said he and his wife have swapped out their washing machine for a more efficient model and only water their outside landscaping two nights a week. He said that he and his wife have two small children and two elderly parents living in the house, as well as nieces and nephews who stay with the family during the summer when their parents are at work. 

“I have little kids, and there’s only so much you can do," he said. "You can’t throw a 3-year-old into the shower.”

County water district officials said it's fair to use the average figure to set the target because it rewards people who are already conserving and penalizes high users. However, they said there would be an appeals process.

"Water's becoming more scarce in the drought, and when you have a scarce commodity, it's going to become more costly," said Gary Hildebrand, deputy director of the county's public works department, which runs the county Waterworks Districts.

The county supervisors were slated to vote on the plan last week but postponed the action to look into residents' concerns.

The state wants to reduce urban water use by 25% overall and is requiring water suppliers around the state to cut back by amounts ranging from 8% to 36%. But the state has left it up to each water agency to figure out how to get to the target.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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