Los Angeles residents would be asked to conserve water this spring, and those in non-compliance would have to pay a
significantly higher Department of Water and Power bill, under a proposal announced by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa's call for conservation, which would be done by moving to the third phase of the city's water conservation ordinance, must be affirmed by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners and Los Angeles City Council, a process that is expected to take three to six weeks.
If the plan is approved, it will mark the first time in the city's history that Angelenos will be asked to ration their water.
"We are headed into a crisis that we have not seen in decades. California is going into its third straight year of drought. Statewide water reserve levels are at the lowest point since the 1976-78 drought," Villaraigosa said.
Local news from across Southern California
Villaraigosa said Angelenos could be asked to cut back their water usage by as much as 15 to 20 percent, but an exact figure has yet to be determined. Once rationing is fully implemented, residents who use more water would be charged a higher rate.
"Our message is simple: if you save water, you will save money," the mayor said.
A city ordinance limiting how and when residents can use water went into effect last year. The conservation law banned outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the use of water to clean driveways and sidewalks.
Villaraigosa urged DWP officials to impose more restrictions, which would ban residents from watering their lawns on days other than Monday or Thursday. The utility will also increase its number of "drought busters," who respond to incidents of inappropriate water usage, from 15 to 30.
The call to conserve comes even as Angelenos' water use is on the decline. In 2008, single-family households used 6.9 percent less water than they did the year before and commercial customers cut their water usage by 4 percent. City-owned properties used 16 percent less water in 2008 than in 2007.
California has been in a declared statewide drought since last summer. The California Department of Water Resources reported last month that the state's snowpack water content is 61 percent of its usual level.
The city's water shortage is also the result of a federal court ruling aimed at protecting delta smelt, which significantly reduced the amount of water Southern California water agencies receive from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The Metropolitan Water District provides about two-thirds of the DWP's water supply and has warned that if the statewide water conditions continue, the city of L.A. could see a 15 to 25 percent reduction in its allotted supply.
The Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to take up the issue of water rationing at its Feb. 17 meeting.