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Water Cut Effect Seen as Minimal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Officials say chances are good that if the city of Los Angeles imposes water rationing on the public next February, most consumers will hardly notice it.

The possibility of rationing water delivered to individual customers was raised Tuesday when the regional Metropolitan Water District ordered mandatory rationing of the water it supplies to local agencies, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The DWP, which this year has been getting about 60% of its water from the MWD, is the agency that sells water to residents of Los Angeles.

Local officials, including City Council members and Mayor Tom Bradley, will decide in February whether to impose rationing--and penalties for overuse.

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MWD General Manager Carl Boronkay thinks they probably will. But the impact on city residents probably will not be much, says Bruce Kuebler, an assistant chief engineer with the DWP.

Under the MWD plan, cutbacks to the DWP would range from 5% for “uninterruptible” residential and industrial use and 20% for “interruptible” agricultural and ground water replenishment use. Surcharges of up to 300% would be levied for excessive use.

“Interruptible” water is sold at a lower rate, so the DWP buys some of this to fill its aquifers and reservoirs . As a result, the overall cutbacks imposed by the MWD on the DWP will be more than 5%--something more like 7% to 10%.

Kuebler noted that in the summer months after voluntary water conservation was requested in April, residents used about 11% less than in a comparable period a year ago. The savings dipped to about 5.5% in October, then rose to about 7% in November.

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Kuebler said that if residents continue to save that much or a little more, the DWP will meet the MWD quotas. Even if the cutbacks for individual consumers are made mandatory, most residents will hardly notice the difference because they have been saving about that much anyway.

The conservation methods employed by most residents during the voluntary cutbacks have been pretty comfortable to live with, according to the DWP.

“It hasn’t been a drastic thing at all,” Kuebler said. “People have stopped hosing down their driveways, stopped watering during the hot part of the day, stopped over-watering. . . . It’s attention to the little things. Things like full loads in clothes washers, shorter showers, shutting off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, fixing leaks,” Kuebler said.

He said that only if the drought intensifies and the MWD is forced to implement more stringent rationing will Los Angeles residents face Draconian cutbacks like those imposed on residents of Santa Barbara, where water supplies are far more limited.

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The DWP’s “drought police” are still in the field, warning residents caught hosing off driveways and otherwise wasting water, but only in a few extreme cases have repeated offenders been fined, Kuebler said.


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