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Major LA Water Wasters Could Be Fined Up to $40k a Month

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The new fines are aimed at big-time, deep-pocketed users

As the chance that a big El Niño will swoop in and save the droughty day grows more and more unlikely, and the days continue to stay warm and summery, the fight to reign in water use across Southern California carries on. Earlier this year, the LA Department of Water and Power outlined what they planned to do to nudge people toward meeting mandatory statewide water restriction goals. One tool that was definitely on the table? Higher fines for water wasters.

Now, those higher fines are here, reports KPCC, and they could go from $1,000 to as much as $40,000 a month for serious water consumers whose use is "unreasonable." The new, more severe fines are possible thanks to an ordinance just passed by the LADWP.

The ordinance would give the DWP the ability to "approach big users," audit them, and find out a "reasonable amount of water use" for their property. (The audit would consider a number of factors, including property size, landscaping type, and the number of people living in the household.) Failure to comply with the water use levels dictated by the audit would put those new, stiff fines into effect.

"We need something for someone who says, ‘My water bill is not that big compared to every other bill I have in my life. I want to have what I want to have and I’m willing to pay for it,'" the DWP's senior assistant general manager said in a presentation to the department's board of commissioners. (He was probably thinking about that no doubt very wealthy Bel Air household that used enough water for 90 normal households in a year's time.) The steep penalties are "something that has some teeth," where before it seemed the LADWP was a little toothless. Larger fines seemed to help in Beverly Hills, where water customers have finally cut back after months ignoring mandatory restrictions.

The LADWP will also be implementing a "sliding scale" fining system for smaller instances of rulebreaking, like hosing down a driveway, that would raise fines in proportion to how bad the drought conditions were when the violation occurred. Something that might get slapped with a $100 to $300 fine could be worth $400 or as much as $1,200 in the most severe drought times.