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Nine Agencies Fined for Using Too Much Water : Conservation: Cerritos faces the largest surcharge--$62,291. Some agencies are claiming they’re being soaked.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nine municipal and independent water agencies in the Southeast area will have to pay thousands of dollars in penalties for failing to reduce their use of water from the Metropolitan Water District.

Because of the drought, the MWD required its clients to reduce their water consumption last month by 10% to 30% based on usage in February, 1990. The MWD is requiring even more stringent conservation for March and April.

The Cerritos municipal water system faces the largest surcharge, $62,291, for using too much MWD water during February.

The La Puente-based Suburban Water Systems, which serves La Mirada and parts of Whittier, will have to pay a penalty of $22,852. The Huntington Park and Paramount municipal water systems owe surcharges of about $9,000 each. Five other agencies serving parts of Bell, Maywood, Montebello, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier and Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey also were penalized. These are the first penalties resulting from the MWD rationing program.

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On the other hand, 15 area water companies are scheduled to receive rebates for significantly reducing their consumption of MWD water.

Those agencies serve parts of Artesia, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Compton, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, La Mirada, La Habra Heights, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, Vernon and Whittier.

Area water companies meet their demands by buying imported water from the MWD and by pumping ground water.

Overall, water users in the Southeast and Long Beach areas reduced their consumption of water in February by about 5.9% compared to the amount they used during the same period last year, officials said.

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The area is expected to save more water this month because of the heavy rains, but officials warned that conservation efforts should not be relaxed, because the drought is not over.

“The real test will be when the weather starts drying out in May and June and July,” said Richard Atwater, general manager of the Central Basin Municipal Water District.

The Central Basin Municipal Water District sells MWD water to most of the municipal and independent water companies in the Southeast area. It also passes on the MWD penalties. Long Beach and Compton buy directly from the MWD.

The penalties have brought protests from some officials, who say they are being punished for past conservation measures.

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Cerritos has appealed, claiming that its fine is unfair because the city’s overall water use was down 10.7% for the month, city Water Supt. Ronald F. Babel said.

Although the city used less water from other sources last month, it is being fined because it was forced to buy 158 acre feet of MWD water. The city avoided buying MWD water entirely in Feburary, 1990, relying instead on well water and reclaimed waste water, Babel said.

Central Basin Municipal Water District officials have been encouraging area cities to use more reclaimed water, which is not safe to drink but can be used for landscaping. Reclaimed waste water is processed at a county plant in Cerritos and is not rationed.

“I do feel we have a legitimate reason for appeal,” Babel said.

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In turn, Cerritos will begin charging its residents and businesses in the next several weeks if they use too much water.

A Paramount official called his city’s penalty a “raw deal.” To ease the load on the MWD, Paramount cut its water purchases in 1990 by nearly 50% and started pumping more ground water, Deputy City Manager Patrick West said. Central Basin Municipal Water District officials have encouraged local water companies to increase pumping because the area’s underground water supplies are relatively full.

As a result, Paramount’s ration was only 72 acre feet of MWD water last month. But because one of its wells was out of service, the city bought 96 acre feet and was penalized $9,653. The city actually used 2% less water than it did in February, 1990.

“We did what they told us to do and our entire community is being punished,” West said. The city is appealing the penalty. Paramount has no mandatory water conservation program that would allow it to assess surcharges against residents and businesses that use excessive amounts of water.

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Central Basin Municipal Water District officials say they will consider such appeals before the end of the year and make adjustments if necessary.

The California Water Service Co. will receive the area’s largest credit--$23,235--for saving more than its share of MWD water. Overall, California Water Service reduced consumption last month by 7.4% compared to February, 1990.

The Lynwood municipal water system is to receive the area’s next largest rebate--$17,889--for reducing its consumption of MWD water.

Ironically, Lynwood increased its overall consumption of water last month by about 20% compared to February, 1990, according to Central Basin Municipal Water District statistics.

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Lynwood increased its use of ground water and reduced its allotment from the MWD. “We lucked out,” Public Works Director Emilio Murga said.

Lynwood does not have a mandatory water conservation ordinance in place. But such an ordinance could become necessary next year, when the city will not have a cache of ground water.

The area’s water companies have been working this month to close the spigot further. The MWD cutbacks in March ranged from 20% to 50%. On Monday, those reductions are scheduled to be increased to 30% to 90%. But because of the recent rains, the MWD Board of Directors will reconsider those limits at its April 9 meeting, a spokesman said.

The water companies and systems penalized are Cerritos, Los Angeles County/Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center, Huntington Park, Maywood Mutual Water Companies Nos. 1 and 2, Montebello, Paramount, San Gabriel Valley Water Co. and Suburban Water Systems.

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The water companies and systems scheduled to receive rebates are: Bellflower, California Water Service Co., Commerce, Compton, Downey, La Habra Heights County Water District, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood Mutual Water Co. No. 3, Orchard Dale Water District, Park Water Co., Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, Southern California Water Co. and Vernon.

HOW CITIES ARE PLANNING TO SAVE WATER

Here is a city-by-city look at drought-related measures taken by municipal and private water suppliers serving Long Beach and Southeast Los Angeles County. Only mandatory measures are listed. Failure to comply with the measures could result in penalties ranging from fines to the interruption of water service. For more detailed information, contact the agency or company listed on your water bill.

* Cerritos has about the greenest landscape of any city in the Southeast. That’s because the city receives and uses about 2,000 acre feet of reclaimed waste water a year. The water, which is safe for landscape and industrial uses, is processed in a local county treatment plant. There are no restrictions on the use of reclaimed water during a drought.

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* With a running hose, it takes about 150 gallons of water for the average do-it-yourself carwash. That’s equal to 30 office cooler-size bottles of water. The stingiest water miser--armed with a bucket and hose equipped with a shut-off nozzle--needs just 10 gallons to get the job done.

* When restaurants provide customers with water only on request, they save much more than the average 12-ounce serving. An estimated 48 ounces is required to wash the glass, meaning it takes almost half a gallon of water to quench a diner’s thirst.

* To water the exotic plants that have made the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino known throughout the world, the institution uses almost 98 million gallons a year. That translates into 267,945 gallons daily, although summertime use is higher and wintertime is lower. The Huntington--encompassing 207 acres--has two wells which meet the facility’s needs. Because of that, the gardens have not been severely endangered by the drought. But owing to the rainfall shortage, the Huntington still has a diminished ground water supply. To save water, the Huntington has grouped together plants that require similar amounts of irrigation.

CUTBACKS IN WATER USE

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Max. Daily Use (in Gallons) City (supplier) Cutback Ordered Base Period for Exemption Cerritos 375 gallon limit per none none day for residential users as of Feb. 12; restrictions for commercial and industrial users based on size of water mains Commerce 10% cut as of June 1, 1989- 150 March 1 May 31, ’90 Compton 10% cut starting 1990 usage 349 April 1 Lakewood 337 gallons per day none none allocated to single- family homes; restrictions for other users vary Long Beach 325 gallons per day none none allocated to single- family homes, 275 gallons for duplexes and 200 gallons for each unit of an apartment complex; 20% cut for industrial and commercial users as of March 29 Montebello 20% cut as of Feb. usage during none (city water system) 26 previous year Montebello (Calif. 10% cut as of July 1, 1989- 150 Water Service Co.) March 1 June 30, 1990 Sante Fe Springs 10% cut as of March 1, 1990- none March 1 Feb. 28, ’91

Cities not requiring rationing: Artesia, Bell, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Huntington Park, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Signal Hill, South Gate and Whittier.

OTHER MANDATORY MEASURES

Bell Gardens* No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on lawn watering on two days in a row Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Cerritos No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Commerce No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Compton No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on lawn watering on two days in a row Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Downey No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose Ban on lawn watering on two days in a row Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Lakewood No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on watering lawn more than twice a week Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Long Beach No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Montebello (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on lawn watering on two days in a row Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Montebello (Calif. Water Service Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Norwalk* No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on lawn watering on two days in a row Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Sante Fe Springs No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No car washing with free-flowing hose No lawn watering during most day hours Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Whittier No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No water runoff in streets or gutters No lawn watering during most day hours Water in restaurants only served by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

* Note: Bell Gardens’ conservation measures take effect April 24; Norwalk’s begin April 5. Area cities that do not presently require such water conservation are Artesia, Bell, Bellflower, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens, Huntington Park, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Signal Hill and South Gate.

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