Environment & Science

The top 5 LA zip codes for water waste complaints

The City of LA's watering ordinance permits sprinklers before 9 A.M. and after 4 P.M., on alternating days for even and odd-numbered addresses. LADWP
The City of LA's watering ordinance permits sprinklers before 9 A.M. and after 4 P.M., on alternating days for even and odd-numbered addresses. LADWP "water cop" Rick Silva says when he sees sprinklers that need adjustment, he sends homeowners a letter about them.
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A cluster of five zip codes in Central and West Los Angeles has accounted for one in three complaints of outdoor water waste since the beginning of the year, according to data newly released from the Los Angeles Department of Water.

An area stretching from Virgil Village to the 405 Freeway — including such neighborhoods as Hancock Park, Miracle Mile, Beverly Grove and Westwood Village — was the source of more than 1,700 water waste complaints fielded by DWP's Water Conservation Response Unit between Jan. 1 and May 21.

What remains unclear from the new data released is whether the top five zip codes for complaints encompass particularly wasteful areas of the city or whether residents there are more willing to snitch on their neighbors.

Fred Mariscal with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council said many residents have lived in the area a long time and are civic-minded.

"When they see someone who is just spilling water everywhere, they get upset," he said.

All told, residents across Los Angeles filed nearly 4,800 complaints of water waste.

The table below shows the top five zip codes for complaints lodged.

Zipcode Complaints
90004 691
90019 334
90024 295
90036 212
90048 178

All the zip codes are contiguous except for Westwood's 90024, which is separated from the rest by Beverly Hills, which has its own water agency.

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DWP's Water Conservation Response Unit oversees enforcement of L.A.'s outdoor watering restrictions as the city, and California as a whole, suffers through the fourth year of a crippling drought.

The city is under a state mandate to cut water use 16 percent by the end of next February. One way L.A. officials hope to reach that goal is to cut outdoor water use, starting by enforcing current restrictions.

Right now, homeowners are only allowed to water with sprinklers three days a week. The days are determined by whether addresses end in an odd or even number. Watering is not allowed on Saturdays and can only be done before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m. on appropriate days. Water is never allowed to run off onto adjacent sidewalks and streets nor can be used to wash down hard surfaces.

More than a third of the complaints received were for excessive runoff. Another quarter were for watering on off days.

The table below shows the complaints received by type and frequency.

Type of Complaint Number
Water Runoff 1,705
Violating Even/Odd Watering Schedule 1,195
Off-hours Watering 524
Washing down Hard Surfaces 313
Unrepaired Leak 312
Other/Unknown 299
Watering more than 8 Minutes 223
Watering during Rainfall 217

DWP officials did not return calls seeking additional information about the numbers, but department officials have said the follow up on complaints by sending warning letters to water wasters. Officials say those letter are generally enough to get people to change their behaviors.

Still, since the first of the year, the DWP has issued 22 $100 fines to people cited for a second violation and seven $200 fines for people cited for a third. 

Together the five zip codes are home to more than 236,500 people and comprise some of the denser areas of the city. More than two-thirds of the housing stock is multi-family rental units.

RELATED: See March enforcement statistics for Southern California water agencies

Still, many neighborhoods in the area are lined with single family homes and front yards, most of which are swathed in a mantle of green grass.

On a recent day, Larchmont Village resident Philip Casnoff stood outside his home in the 200 block of South Plymouth Avenue and offered his thoughts on why his zip code may have seen the most water waste complaints.

“I’m assuming the complaints came from neighbors that are trying to do their best at managing their water use, and they get upset when they see sprinklers going on on days when they’re not supposed to be going on,” said Casnoff, who has lived in the area for 20 years.

Los Angeles residents who have their own complaints can call 1-800-342-5397 or email waterwaste@ladwp.com.