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Hawthorne OKs Draft Water-Saving Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hawthorne city officials approved a draft of an emergency water conservation plan Monday that would establish mandatory phases for cutting back on water consumption in the event of serious shortages and set up penalties for noncompliance.

The plan was drafted at the request of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies most of the city’s water needs and which is asking all of its member cities to adopt conservation measures. An ordinance to make the plan law will come before the City Council on May 29. If adopted, the plan would go into effect 30 days later.

“This is the fourth year of the drought and the shortage is becoming a serious concern,” said Harry Reeves, Hawthorne’s chief of special services. “All cities are being encouraged by providers of water to implement these plans or have them in place so that at the point that extreme emergency measures are called for, they’ll have something on the books. It’s planning ahead.”

The council must hold a public hearing before voting to enact any phase of the plan. Reeves said the city’s water department would recommend when each phase should be implemented, based on requests from the Metropolitan Water District.

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Last month, the district asked for voluntary cutbacks of 10% between June and September, the four months during which people use half the water they will use all year. If people don’t cut back on their water use voluntarily by late July, the district will consider recommending that cities implement mandatory measures, spokesman Bob Gompersz said.

The Hawthorne City Council adopted a voluntary water conservation program in August, 1988, in which residents were encouraged to fix water leaks, stop hosing their walkways and driveways, stop filling decorative fountains with water, and avoid watering their lawns between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Restaurants were also asked to stop serving drinking water except at the request of customers.

Those voluntary measures would become mandatory, however, under the first phase of Hawthorne’s emergency water plan.

Subsequent phases of the plan require residents and businesses to reduce their water consumption in increments of 5%, up to a total of 20%. The plan’s fifth phase could be enacted if drought conditions persist another year.

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Schools, hospitals, convalescent homes and hotels would not be required to conserve water until the fourth phase of the plan went into effect. At that stage, when most businesses and residents would be required to cut back on their water usage by 15%, they would be required to cut back by 5%.

Only residents who exceed consumption levels established for each phase of the plan will be subject to cutback requirements. An elderly retired couple who consume a small amount of water every day, for instance, would not be required to cut back on their water use.

“There’s a lot of latitude here, but we don’t want to convey the message that you don’t have to cut back,” Reeves said. “We want everybody to voluntarily cut back where they can.”

Businesses, residents and others who receive two or more citations for failing to comply with the conservation requirements could be subject to a surcharge equal to 20% of their total water bill for that month. Water officials could also clamp flow-restricting devices to their pipes. Violators would then have to pay $50 to have the clamps removed.

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Large families or people with medical conditions who cannot restrict their water use may appeal for exemptions, Reeves said.

To encourage voluntary cutbacks, the district is offering rebates to regional water agencies whose member cities cut back on their water usage by more than 5% during summer months.

The West Basin Municipal Water District, the regional agency that sells MWD water to Hawthorne and 16 other cities in the South Bay and West Los Angeles areas, will pass the rebate money on to its member cities, General Manager Richard Atwater said.


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