La Verne Leads Pack on Water Restrictions : Conservation: The average household's use is cut by 60%. Covina takes steps to limit use with 16% rate hike.


La Verne, taking one of the San Gabriel Valley's toughest water conservation stands yet, will im pose fines on consumers who use more than 14,000 gallons every two months. That represents a 60% cut for the average household, which now uses 36,000 gallons every two-month billing period.

The emergency water conservation ordinance approved Monday by the City Council also spelled out limitations on how water may be used. Among other provisions, it outlaws hosing down paved surfaces and limits landscape watering to four five-minute periods each week between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Although the average household would have to cut water use 60% to avoid being fined, the overall goal is a 30% reduction, a city report said. So only nominal fines--18 cents for every thousand gallons--will be imposed for water usage between 14,000 and 24,000 gallons.

Public Works Director Brian Bowcock said the smaller fines are intended to remind people when they use too much water.

But the fines increase steeply for using more than 24,000 gallons every two months: 60 cents per thousand gallons from 24,000 to 44,000; $1.96 per thousand gallons between 44,000 and 74,000, and $5.13 for each thousand gallons above that.

Bowcock said there are between 7,300 and 7,400 single-family homes in La Verne, of which 484 now use more than 100,000 gallons per two-month billing period. One household--a two-person family living on a 1 1/2-acre suburban lot--uses 445,000 gallons.

The severity of the council action was prompted in part by the decision this week by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to slash deliveries to member agencies by 50%.

In another drought-related action in the San Gabriel Valley this week:

Starting in April, Covina customers will pay 16% more for water. The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to raise regular water rates, impose higher rates for overuse, and enforce conservation measures. Also, the council and the Covina Redevelopment Agency formed a joint-powers authority to finance water system improvements.

The new rates will increase the bimonthly bill for the average customer who uses 2,400 cubic feet of water to $20.20, up from $17.32.

The 16.56% rate increase will pay for higher water costs and $3.3 million in water improvements. The rate increase comes six months after officials imposed a 5.74% rate hike last September. The city has been forced to buy more water from the Metropolitan Water District because Covina Irrigation Co., which sells cheaper water, drastically cut back deliveries because of the drought, said Stan McCartney, the city's finance director.

In addition to the higher rates, customers will pay penalties for exceeding base allotments that are structured by lot size and type of property.

But, water conservation measures should help customers avoid penalties. The council imposed intermediate conservation measures that include a moratorium on the construction of swimming pools, ponds or whirlpool baths. Lawn and landscape watering will be allowed every third day between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Beginning April 30, failure to comply with the conservation measures will result in a written warning for the first violation, and $50, $200 and $500 penalties for second, third and fourth violations. A fifth violation will result in a flow restrictor on the water meter for up to 72 hours.

Times staff writer Franki V. Ransom contributed to this story.

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