California Cities Impose Rigid Water Restrictions Cuts Show Drought Outlook Is Bleaker Than Anticipated

By Daniel B. Wood, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 1991 | Go to article overview

California Cities Impose Rigid Water Restrictions Cuts Show Drought Outlook Is Bleaker Than Anticipated


Daniel B. Wood, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


IN her Friday water bill, Susie Sirota was warned that if she didn't cut her household water use by half, she would be fined: $3 for every 750 additional gallons plus 15 percent of her full, two-month water bill. Second and third offenses would carry higher fines - 50 and 75 percent - and a fourth could cut off her water completely.

Wife and mother of two, Ms. Sirota had already spent the last year in a conservation regimen that might entitle her to civic decoration: catching rain runoff in barrels, saving bath and laundry water for her lawn and plants, regauging toilet water levels, installing shower savers. Still, her savings of 32 cubic feet per two-month billing period - about 24,000 gallons - will be about 22,000 gallons over her allotment and triple her water bill. First offense.

"My only chance is appeal," says Ms. Sirota. "Otherwise, there is no way my family can live like human beings." City restrictions

After four years of screaming headlines about drought devastation to California farmers and crops, statewide water wars are finally hitting the major cities full force:

- On March 1, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ordered a 10 percent cutback to households based on 1986 usage levels. By May, the cutback will be 15-25 percent with more to follow. Hotlines to report water abusers in six different categories from car washing to hosing off sidewalks will alert patrolling "drought busters" to levy fines. "In the last two weeks we've seen a much bleaker situation than we anticipated," says Daniel Waters, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). In the most drastic water conservation act in state history, Gov. Pete Wilson halted the flow of northern water from the State Water Project to Los Angeles.

- San Francisco last week ordered 2.6 million water users in the Bay Area to cut consumption 45 percent below pre-drought levels. The city water department said the water supply would run dry within 18 months without cuts. The Public Utilities Commission made it a crime to fill a swimming pool or water more than the putting green of a golf course. As of yesterday, customers will be unable to wash cars at home or fill hot tubs. Parks that use water for irrigation will lose 90 percent of their supply.

- The San Diego City Council declared a drought state of emergency approving a 30 percent cutback citywide by April 1. Mayor Maureen O'Connor says she'll support mandatory measures if goals aren't met.

The only other time time water rationing was imposed on Los Angeles, in 1977, water runoff from mountains was 42 percent of normal. …

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