Private Water Firm Gets OK to Impose Usage Cutbacks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A private water company serving Carson and part of Torrance won permission from the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday to impose mandatory water restrictions on its 30,000 South Bay customers.

The company, Dominguez Water Corp., will charge residents and businesses extra for water if they fail to meet conservation targets of 10% beginning March 1 and 20% starting April 1.

The program, which also includes prohibitions on various wasteful uses of water, is the latest in a string of mandatory water conservation programs to be approved in the South Bay. It was welcomed Thursday by city officials in Carson, home to 75% of Dominguez's South Bay customers.

"We're trying to tell people here to take this program very seriously," said Carson spokeswoman Eva Gatling, who says the city cable TV channel and newsletter will be used to publicize the program. "We're in the fifth year of drought, and the situation is extremely serious."

So far this year, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach and Torrance have approved mandatory restrictions. And California Water Service Co., which serves Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, won PUC approval for mandatory measures. The plans call for cutbacks ranging from 10% to 20%.

Under the Dominguez program, customers will be charged about double for the water they use in excess of their conservation target. For residents, water consumption will be measured on a bimonthly basis compared to 1989. For businesses, there will be monthly comparisons to fiscal 1989-90.

Customers who use 200 gallons or less will be subject to less stringent conservation standards, and those who conserve more than required will receive credits on their water bills. There is an appeal procedure for customers who request exemptions from any of the program's provisions.

Like other South Bay programs, the Dominguez plan prohibits wasteful water uses such as hosing down driveways, filling fountains that do not have a water recycling system and serving water in restaurants when it is not requested.

Penalties range from warnings for first-, second- and third-time offenders to the installation of a flow-restrictor on a customer's water line for subsequent infractions. But Dominguez officials say they will favor public education over policing. Flow restrictors will only be installed in extreme cases, they say.

"If we have flagrant violations we will have to install flow restrictors," said John Tootle, the company's vice president of finance. "Hopefully we won't have flagrant violations."

Dominguez has set up a hot line for information on its water conservation plan: 830-1484.

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