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Mandatory water cuts put pressure on California communities

A look at where L.A. stands on water conservation

Los Angeles officials are proud to say that the city is using the same amount of water now that it did 40 years ago, despite having more than 1 million additional residents.

But L.A. must now save more.

Gov. Jerry Brown's new drought orders for California call for the first-ever mandatory water usage cuts in California. Here is a look at where L.A. stands from The Times archives:

How has Los Angeles been doing in water conservation in recent years?

Los Angeles has cut water consumption by at least 17% over the last seven years. Last fall, Mayor Eric Garcetti called on residents and businesses to cut water use an additional 20% over the next 2 1/2 years.

How does the city plan to achieve those goals?

The plan sets out periodic benchmarks for the reductions. If Angelenos don't hit the goals, Garcetti said, he will impose harsher rules for residents that could include scaling back outdoor watering from three days per week to two, requiring covers for all pools to reduce evaporation and prohibiting residents from washing their cars at home. The plan also calls for mandatory reductions in water use by some city agencies.

How aggressively is L.A. punishing water wasters?

The city has hired more officials to look for water wasters. But like most agencies around California, it's focused more on issuing warnings and educating customers than handing out fines.

That might need to change with significantly more water conservation needed.

During the first six months of 2014, Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power received 1,400 reports of violations and handed out 863 warning letters.

The DWP, like other agencies, also has modified its rate structure. Customers are given a certain allocation of water, and penalized heavily if they exceed it.

Officials said that if the drought worsens, the city would fine water violators as policy: $300 for residential customers and $600 for commercial customers.

What does Brown's order require?

Brown on Wednesday ordered cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the first in state history.

The directive comes more than a year after Brown asked for a 20% voluntary cut in water use that most parts of the state have failed to attain, even as one of the most severe modern droughts drags into a fourth year. It also came on the day that water officials measured the lowest April 1 snowpack in more than 60 years of record-keeping in the Sierra Nevada.

Local agencies will receive targets for cutting water use based on how well they've done so far.

What has been the reaction from local cities?

Although Southern California water managers said it might be tough for some cities to meet the 25% target, they welcomed Brown's action.

“It's the right time. It's a proper directive,” said Rob Hunter, general manager of the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

Garcetti praised the executive order, noting that last year he called for a 20% cut in the city's water use by 2017.

In Long Beach, Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier said the order would have the biggest effect on water districts that use much more water per capita than Long Beach and Los Angeles.

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