File photo
File photo
File photo

CITYWIDE — Be sure to patch your leaky fountains.

Following one of the driest years in California history, Code Compliance officers at City Hall are cracking down on wasted water, according to a recent report to the City Council.

Some violations will skip the warning phase and head straight to citations.

Rainfall in Los Angeles for 2013 was 3.6 inches. The yearly average to date is 14.93, according to statistics from the National Weather Service.

Southern California is experiencing “extreme drought” according to the Drought Severity Index, created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Because it’s difficult to measure, City Hall doesn’t know exactly how much water is wasted every year. But visually the waste is obvious, said Neal Shapiro, watershed section supervisor at the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

“Given that the city uses nearly 13 million gallons a day, the amount of wasted water is negligible in the short-run,” he said. “If not corrected and efficiencies put in place, the amounts would add up. Visually, one gets a sense of the volume of waste when driving around the city on a sunny [day] and sees runoff in gutters flowing from blocks, commonly seen north of Wilshire.”

Water citations were up last year after Code Compliance took over the job from the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. OSE had overseen the ordinance that bans wasteful water use since it was adopted in 1988. Code Compliance also took over enforcement of the leaf blower ban last year.

In 2007, water citations spiked at 128. Citations tapered off over the years as the OSE reduced enforcement and focused on other means of reducing waste, according to the report. There were only three water citations issued in 2011 and 2012 combined.

Warnings, however, are up in the past few years. Despite the lowest and the second lowest annual citation totals in the last 10 years, there were more than 3,600 water warnings issued in 2011 and 2012. Comparatively, there were less than 600 warnings issued in 2005 and 2006. Totals were only released for the first half of 2013, but warnings were on pace to break 1,500, while citations were on pace to reach 16.

Water wasting violations have continued at a relatively high rate despite warnings, officials said.

To help combat this type of waste, Code Compliance will be able to issue citations quicker.

Violations related to hosing of hardscapes, irrigation system leaks, and draining of pools, tubs, fish ponds and fountains will no longer be subject to warnings. Citations will be issued immediately. Infractions or misdemeanors are punishable by fines starting at $250, according to the report.

Sprinkler overspray violations will result in a seven-day compliance order. If the problem isn’t fixed, a citation will be issued.

Previously, all violations were subject to a warning and a two-week period allowing residents time to correct the problem.

An appeals process is still available to anyone who thinks they were fined in error.

The changes to the enforcement are similar to changes made to leaf blower enforcement in late 2012, officials said. Those changes resulted in more compliance with the leaf blower ban.

“The main impetus for the enforcement change is (City Hall’s) goal of becoming water self-sufficient by 2020,” Shapiro said. “In order to do that we need to greatly reduce or even eliminate all forms of water wasting and inefficiency. One of the strategies of the coming Sustainable Water Master Plan, which is still in draft but is expected to be approved this summer, is to reduce water demand. Increased enforcement would help meet this goal.”

Through March, OSE officials plan to reach out to the community about the changes. They also plan to reach out to the major gardening and landscaping companies in the city.

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