Panel Balks at Ending Water Fines


Throwing an obstacle in the path of plans to end mandatory water rationing, a Los Angeles City Council committee on Tuesday voted to roll back conservation levels to 10% but to continue imposing fines on those who exceed the cutbacks.

The Department of Water and Power Commission unanimously approved a resolution last week to lift restrictions April 1 and begin a voluntary program aimed at conserving 10%. The measure requires approval by the full City Council and Mayor Tom Bradley, who said he supports the plan.

But the council's Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 2 to 0 to recommend that DWP officials come up with a plan to impose fines on customers who fail to meet cutbacks of 10%.

"We're saying, 'Let's roll back to 10%, but let's keep the penalties,' " said Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who chairs the panel. "What we are trying to do is protect people who conserve water from furnishing water to those who don't."

The other committee member present, council President John Ferraro, agreed that "violators should be punished." However, he predicted "some fighting when this comes before the full council next week."

Bradley criticized the committee's action, saying: "Why penalize residents after months and months of conserving? Let's not threaten residents with the potential of additional fines. Let's reward them for a job well done."

Jerry Gewe, DWP water resources engineer, said the committee's recommendation would require maintaining a monitoring program that cost $1.8 million to administer in the last year.

Over the last eight months, the DWP has collected $20 million in fines from 65,000 homes and businesses--about 10% of the department's customer base--found to have violated the restrictions, Gewe said.

That money has been used to help offset losses of $70 million due to decreased demand for water over the last year, Gewe said.

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