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Little Water, but Blame, Blame Everywhere : Rationing: According to people around Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of culprits behind the mayor’s call for mandatory conservation.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Please don’t bother Jean Caby with talk of droughts. For him, water rationing is simply irrelevant.

“We don’t use city water,” the Bel-Air homeowner said. “We fill our pool with Evian.”

It seemed to be a joke.

Across town, Ricardo Rodriguez-Santana was not in such good humor about Mayor Tom Bradley’s call last week for mandatory water rationing. In fact, the thought of cutting back his family’s water made him so mad the anger boiled out in two languages at once.

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“There is NO problema in this area,” the Cuban immigrant shouted Saturday from the lime-green porch of his home in the Pico-Union district. “Porque people here no got nada! Beverly Hills! Hollywood! The people con money use all the water. THEY are the problema.

From one parched end of Los Angeles to the other Saturday, it seemed somebody else was to blame for any shortage of water.

People with brown lawns blamed the people down the street with green ones. Poor people blamed the rich. Others, like Josephine Scott, dealt in specifics, describing individual water-wasters they had nabbed wet-handed.

“Why, I caught a man just a few minutes ago, watering his sidewalk up at Arden and 5th,” the retired nurse reported, gesturing with her cane down the verdant, mansion-lined streets of Hancock Park.

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“I’ve been policing the area,” Scott said, casting a dark glance toward the offending home. Each day during her three-mile constitutional she keeps a lookout for sprinklers that overshoot their lawns and gardeners who clean up with garden hoses instead of leaf-blowers.

“I just told that man, ‘It’s against the law to do that,’ ” she said, “but do you know, he just defied me.”

In an attempt to head off water shortages if drought conditions persist, Bradley has asked the City Council for quick passage of a plan that would require water consumers in Los Angeles to cut 10% from their 1986 consumption levels or face heavy financial penalties.

Hearings on the proposal begin this week in the council’s Commerce, Energy and National Resources Committee, and the rationing, if the council approves it, could go into effect as early as June.

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Initial reaction from the council has been positive.

Angelenos interviewed Saturday, however, didn’t seem so sure.

“He’s moving in the right direction, although (water rationing) may be a bit premature,” said Elna Bakker, a naturalist who has nonetheless re-landscaped her Mt. Washington home with drought-resistant flowers and trees.

A mandatory 10% cutback, Bakker said, seemed “drastic.” But Bakker said her new garden, a brilliant collage terraced with red coral trees and Mariposa lilies, is so hardy that her water bill this month is half what it was last May.

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Besides, she said jokingly, a water shortage would be par for the course in her neighborhood, where malathion has been drizzling from the sky for months.

“It seems we’re in one of these whammy periods, where everything seems to hit. Drought. Medflies. All we need now is a real good earthquake,” she laughed.

In the Crenshaw District, Paulette Rayford was even less thrilled with the water-rationing idea.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” the 26-year-old mother said as she wiped the last glittering droplets from the hood of her just-washed Hyundai.

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“I got to give the kids baths every night, and I got to wash dishes every day,” she said. "(The mayor) isn’t paying our water bill, so how does he know (whether it’s possible to cut back)?”

Meanwhile, in the San Fernando Valley, Michael St. Denis gave a guilty start when he was caught turning his garden hose on his 9-year-old Jetta outside his Sherman Oaks home.

“Am I going to get a ticket for this?” he said, as an arc of water splashed off his windshield and onto the street.

And Randee Brahom, 13, rolled her eyes as she stood in the very dry driveway of her Encino home ticking off all the things her teachers had said during her Earth Day lesson about water conservation.

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“Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Take short showers. Don’t water the lawn so much,” she said, revealing a mouthful of braces with her smile. “That kind of narrows things down, doesn’t it?”

Nonetheless, she doubted water rationing would change her life much, and her friend, Karyn Bookman, agreed. The person it would really bother, Bookman said, would be her big sister, who is 15.

“She’s in the shower for, like, an hour,” Bookman said.


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