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Water wasting is punishable in wealthy LA enclaves with harsher penalties
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Water wasting is punishable in wealthy LA enclaves with harsher penalties

Residents of a wealthy area near the Santa Monica Mountains, which is a haven to celebrities, now face more severe consequences for wasting water.

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, northwest of Los Angeles, hopes to encourage water savings by making it easier for households to be fined for exceeding their allotted water budgets. Customers who repeatedly fail to conserve water will be severely restricted.

What You Need to Know

  • Despite calls for conservation, water customers in Las Virgenes increased use in August and September, then exceeded the 15% reduction goal in October before again missing the target in November
  • The biggest problem in the district is the ability for affluent clients to significantly exceed their water bills consistently. Money is not a barrier, Michael McNutt, the district spokesperson, stated.
  • The agency is currently installing an advanced water metering device that will display in real-time to customers how much water they’re using
  • Customers who exceed their monthly budget by 150% will be subject to fines starting this month

This district is a bold example of how drought-stricken California authorities are trying to get people using less water. They threaten punishment if they don’t comply. Officials from Las Virgenes hope that their approach will serve as a wakeup call to residents in the affluent areas, where most water is used for outdoor purposes like landscaping and swimming pools.

Dave Pedersen said that the district general manager stated that they were trying to conserve water so that we can stretch the scarce supplies available.

California is feeling the impacts of climate change. It has experienced drought conditions for most if the last ten years and has also suffered its most deadly and destructive wildfires. A string of recent winter storms has improved the state’s situation after two extremely dry years that saw its reservoirs drop to or near record levels. The majority of the state, however, is still in severe drought.

In July, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom requested residents to cut 15% off their water usage. But, the number fell to 6% as of November. The state water board was last month A series of mild restrictions were imposedYou should wait two days after a storm before watering your lawns. If the drought becomes more severe, it may take additional steps later in the year.

California has local districts that provide water service and enforce penalties. Las Virgenes serves approximately 75,000 people in Agoura Hills Westlake Village Calabasas Hidden Hills and Westlake Village. This area has been attracting a growing number celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Will Smith.

Las Virgenes is like most of inland Southern California. It rarely sees rain during the winter months. Summers are usually warm with temperatures in the mid 90s Fahrenheit (mid-30s Celsius). According to Zillow’s online real estate marketplace, Calabasas homes sell for more than $1.5million.

Despite conservation calls, water customers increased their use in August and September, then exceeded the 15% reduction target in October, before again missing the November target. Customers exceeded their water budgets collectively last year.

Michael McNutt, a district spokesperson, stated that one of the major problems in the district is the ability for affluent clients to significantly exceed their water bills consistently. Money is not a barrier. He declined to name the biggest water users in the area.

Around 70% of the water used in the district is for outdoor purposes. Many are willing to pay more to keep their gardens and pools thriving.

It seems that there has not been a good response to the water crisis, according to Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer. She believes that restricting water flow might be the wakeup call many people need.

California regulators are being forced to take action due to dry conditions Dec. they would not provide any water from state supplies beyond what was needed for essentials like drinking and bathing. This could change over the next months, but water allocations won’t rise significantly unless it’s a very cold winter. This uncertainty is especially stressful for Las Virgenes which receives about 80% of its water through state sources.

The district’s new approach for encouraging conservation is part carrot, and part stick:

The agency will install an advanced water metering system to show customers how much water they are using in real-time. It is designed to help customers spot when they are using too much water and adjust their behavior instead of waiting for the monthly bill to show them. They will be installed throughout the district by April, except for customers who choose to opt out, which very few people have done.

Every household has a water allowance. This budget is used in many California water districts. It is based on the number and size of residents. Customers who exceed their monthly budget by 150% will be subject to fines starting this month. Pedersen explained that previously, the fine threshold was set at 200%. This resulted in about 15% of district customers being fined. People are only given a warning if they exceed their budget.

But fines aren’t the worst penalty. Households that are fined three or more times could have a flow restrictor installed on their water system. This restrictor will reduce the flow of water from their faucets and hoses to a trickle. Previously, the district had the option to add the restrictors after five penalties but never did.

According to Mehdi Nemati (an assistant professor at the University of California Riverside), Californians who were richer did not conserve as much during the last drought, even though the state required it. He works with water agencies to implement conservation programs, but not Las Virgenes.

Las Virgenes approach to advanced metering, fines, and the threat or flow restrictors is unique among the more than 400 states with medium-large water agencies. Only a handful of districts have advanced meters because they are too costly to install. Residents who overuse water are not subject to penalties. Many districts instead increase the cost of water by increasing the amount that customers use.

He said that while such a method can alter behavior for some, it is not effective in changing the behavior of wealthy people. Las Virgenes, which also uses this structure, adds penalties.

It is rare for a district or municipality to threaten flow restrictors. These are usually reserved for customers who don’t pay their bills on a regular basis. Nemati guessed that Las Virgenes would be sued.

He said that the agency is quite brave if they want to do this.

Pedersen, general manager, stated that Las Virgenes does not want to be excessively harsh with fines and restrictors. Fines start at $2.50, and can reach $10 for every 748gallons (2.831 liters), above the 150% threshold. The average house in the district consumes 19,448 gallons (73.618 liters) of water each month. Most of this water is outside.

District officials acknowledged that most customers stay within their water budgets.

Pedersen explained that the system helps us target the message to those who are really, honestly, the problem.

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