Los Angeles DWP to halt water and power shut-offs for all customers during extreme weather

A man washes his face in a sink
A man cools off at Lake Balboa Park in Van Nuys. A vote Tuesday from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power favored a resolution that will cease water and power shut-offs due to nonpayment during extreme weather events.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

As Southern California braces for its first heat wave of the summer, the board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Tuesday voted in favor of a resolution that will cease water and power shut-offs due to nonpayment during extreme weather events.

The unanimous decision by the DWP’s Board of Commissioners will direct the department to adopt local alerts from the National Weather Service as a “trigger” for suspending utility shut-offs during extreme heat and cold weather events, effective immediately.

It marks a significant change from the previous policy, which only suspended shut-offs for nonpayment when temperatures reached 100 degrees or higher.


Alerts from the weather service, by contrast, assess not only temperature but also other health risk factors such as relative humidity, heat duration in the summer, hypothermia risks in the winter, and average temperatures for the location, the agency said.

The plan “supports LADWP’s continued commitment to protecting the health and safety of all LADWP customers, particularly vulnerable residents like senior citizens, infants, young children and persons with acute medical needs and low-income customers, ensuring all Angelenos equitable access to critical water and essential power services during summer and winter extreme weather conditions,” the agency said in a news release ahead of the vote.

‘Any spark from fireworks could easily start a fire in the tall grass crop that has cured and turned brown in recent weeks,’ the weather service says.

June 27, 2023

The system will monitor eight alerts ranging from excessive heat warnings down to hard freeze warnings, and will pause shut-offs in service districts where an alert has been issued, Estela Tieman, DWP’s director of customer service operations, said during a presentation to the board. Shut-offs would still be permissible in situations involving fraud, theft or public safety.

The move recognizes that “extremes on both the hot and cold side will be more and more prevalent,” Tieman said. The agency previously had no threshold for cold weather.

The decision came about seven months after the board passed a similar resolution to suspend water and power shut-offs for low-income residents, senior citizens and other eligible customers enrolled in the DWP’s EZ-Save and Senior Citizen Lifeline Discount Program.

It also comes as climate change continues to drive more extreme weather, including blistering heat waves that leave many vulnerable residents at risk. Extreme weather often disproportionately affects low-income residents and people in communities of color, who may lack access to air conditioning and other resources to stay safe.


“We are a community that has been greatly impacted,” said Gloria Salinas, a South L.A. resident and member of the advocacy group SCOPE, who addressed the board in Spanish. She noted that hardscaping and a lack of trees and green space have left the area particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“I am requesting that those who are in power — who have in their hands the power to do something for us — that you can please help us,” she said.

The DWP will halt the practice of shutoffs as a debt collection tool for residents enrolled in its EZ-SAVE program and its Senior Citizen Lifeline Discount Program, officials said.

Nov. 16, 2022

The new National Weather Service alert system will apply to all customers and will increase the average annual number of no-shut-off days affected by the policy, according to the DWP.

Between 2017 and 2022, the previous 100-degree threshold applied to between one and 34 days a year, the agency said. Under the new system, weather service triggers will probably apply to between 17 and 36 days of the year, with up to 72 hours of advance warning.

Some areas will see significant increases in affected days, such as the Los Angeles harbor area, which could go from two no-shut-off days to 17 in an average year.

“Our guiding principle is to ensure that all Angelenos have equitable access to water and power, and that our policies and our practices no longer add to the disparities that are prevalent among our most vulnerable communities,” Gregory Reed, DWP’s senior assistant general manager for diversity, equity and inclusion, told the board.


The proposal may also help provide the weather service with additional data points from within the service area, Reed said, as the DWP will explore whether meteorological data captured by its own systems can be shared with the agency.

But while some people lauded the plan, others said it doesn’t go far enough.

“We recognize this is an important first step that must take place today,” said Diana Umana, community organizer with the RePower Coalition. “We also hope that this can build out to a seasonal moratorium, which will be critical for public health and human life as summers become more intense in L.A.”

Umana noted that the alerts may not be able to account for hyperlocal conditions such as urban heat islands or severe air quality impacts that are particularly concentrated in some areas of L.A.

“We see the need for cooling and ventilation when people are faced with wildfire smoke and bad air pollution,” she said. “Even with the few cooling centers that do exist throughout the city and areas outside of folks’ homes, people and their kids and their families and their pets really do deserve to be comfortable at home.”

Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill said she was mindful of the concerns about air quality and wanted to see more solutions explored. She lauded the board for its progress on shut-off and equity issues.

“We have long-term strategies being executed — both by the department and the city at large and the state — which will more comprehensively address climate change,” she said. “It is simply that our customers can’t wait for the long term, and so it is incumbent upon us to address these issues and these matters in the short run.”


Indeed, studies have found that climate change is increasing not just the intensity but also the frequency of extreme heat waves, driving persistent hot temperatures that pose a significant risk to health and human safety. Heat waves are among the deadliest effects of climate change, causing at least 3,900 deaths in the state between 2010 and 2019, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.

In a statement Tuesday, Mayor Karen Bass thanked the board for enacting the policy.

“All Angelenos — especially those who depend on AC for their health and medical needs — need protection from the heat and cold,” Bass said. “As warming trends continue, we need to work together to protect our most vulnerable from extreme temperatures.”

The motion arrives as the Los Angeles City Council moves forward with its own plan that would potentially mandate air conditioning in all rental units in the city.