The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is using smart meters in an effort to catch the city’s biggest residential water users in the act of violating water-use laws, a senior utility official said Tuesday.
LADWP’s water system manager Marty Adams told City News Service that the utility started placing smart meters at “strategic” locations or households that log excessive amounts of water use, some up to 12 million gallons a year.
While the city imposes fines for violating city water ordinances, citations can only be issued based on what neighbors and DWP’s water cops observe, according to Adams.
The city’s largest residential water consumers tend to use most of their water behind walls, so neighbors and city officials are unable to see if any water rules are being broken.
The city’s rules are also based on when water is used and for how long, rather than on the amount that is used, so citations are usually given out for such offenses as turning the sprinklers on during restricted days or when the watering period goes beyond a certain time limit, according to Adams.
Adams said smart meters, which show when water is being used and for how long, may be the best way to catch violations taking place on properties obscured from public view.
Adams also said existing penalties, which start at $100 and go up only as high as $300, often fail to deter wealthier water consumers.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who has been calling for stronger enforcement measures, said Tuesday the City Council and DWP officials are considering higher penalties, such as increasing water costs by as much as a thousand percent, if water use reaches a certain level.
“That will catch some people’s attention,” Koretz said during a City Hall news conference on the city’s water conservation efforts.
“There are some people who don’t care about the dollar amount,” he added. “At some point, we also would suggest a hard cap, and if you remain above that, your water would be shut off. I think that will probably get some of these abusers’ attention.”
The City Council recently asked DWP officials to look into such measures.
Koretz said Tuesday they are also working with the City Attorney’s Office to explore the legality of higher financial penalties, establishing a water use cap and possibly even disclosing the names of the excessive water users.
The names of people who violate city water rules usually become public information once citations are issued.
— Wire reports
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