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Recycling Water : Environment: Bicyclists are carrying L.A. water to Mono Lake in a symbolic effort to ‘rehydrate’ it. They also call attention to DWP vote that may reward conservationists.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly a hundred hands dipped into a concrete-lined reflecting pool in downtown Los Angeles Monday morning as Martha Davis intoned a plea for an ailing natural body of water 350 miles away.

“Save Mono Lake!” she shouted, as scores of helmeted and Lycra-clad cyclists dipped vials into the pool, capped the containers with rubber plugs and then headed toward rows of bicycles parked nearby.

Within minutes, 90 cyclists were pedaling north through downtown on the first leg of a six-day journey that will take them to the lake at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. There, they plan to empty the vials in a symbolic “rehydration” of the lake.

The bike ride was designed to raise money for the Mono Lake Committee, a 14-year-old conservationist group, and to dramatize the fragile condition of Mono Lake, said Davis, executive director of the committee. Conservationists contend that Mono Lake has been “dehydrated” by decades of diversions of water from its tributaries in an effort to slake the thirst of the nation’s second-largest city.

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The event was also used to bring attention to a vote today by the Department of Water and Power board that could dramatically change the structure of water rates in Los Angeles.

Under the proposal, 71% of the city’s homeowners and 65% of its businesses would pay lower rates for water usage, while excessive and wasteful users in both groups would pay substantially more. Sharp increases would be borne by a relatively small group of water customers who own significant landscaping, keep horses or own extra-large lots.

Last year, the DWP was forced to raise its rates to cover expenses, even as it ordered customers to cut usage.

The latest proposal was formulated by a committee appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley and would still require City Council assent even if the DWP commissioners approve it.

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Davis and other Mono Lake Committee members often have been at odds with DWP officials over water usage. But on Monday, representatives from both groups stood side by side outside DWP headquarters--where the water dipping occurred--and voiced support for the proposed rate change.

“We want to make sure that we never again see people’s rates rise in response to their conservation,” said Davis. “The new rates support conservation. They say that if you conserve you pay less.”


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