A security firm hired by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District started tracking outdoor water use in western Los Angeles County Monday.
The district has hired Camarillo-based Dial Security to patrol the 122-square mile area the water district serves — including Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and adjacent unincorporated L.A. County areas such as the Santa Monica Mountains and Chatsworth — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Uniformed Dial Security personnel will travel as LVMWD representatives in marked cars, with access to gated communities. They’ll document violations in reports and photos that will be submitted to the water district at the end of each day, the district said.
Currently, the water district customers are allowed to use the district's water to irrigate lawns and gardens two days each week. Residents with addresses ending in even numbers are allowed up to 15-minute outdoor water use Monday and Friday, while residents with addresses ending in odd numbers have Tuesday and Saturday. Even then, no runoff is allowed to end up in the street or at adjacent properties, and residents can't use water outdoors while it’s raining, or for 48 hours after.
LVMWD personnel have recorded more than 500 violations since last September but have so far only given out a “handful of fines,” according to LVMWD General Manager David Pedersen.
Water wasters will receive warnings from LVMWD. Repeat offenders will be charged fines that range from $100 to $500. Additional violations can mean the district installs a flow restriction device on your water meter to limit the water that flows through.
The water district is paying Dial Security $25,000 to get the program started.
“We want to see how it goes,” said Pedersen. “We'll be making adjustments depending on the feedback we get."
Pederson said increased enforcement is necessary to meet the district's state-mandated goal of a 36 percent water use reduction from 2013. He added that nearly 70 percent of the water served in the area, which has a population of more than 65,000, is used outdoors.
The new program will focus on wrong-day water use and runoff.
"We're not relying on the fines for any financial purpose," Pedersen said. "We would prefer to issue no fines. One of the values I see in this program is that neighbors telling neighbors about issues where they need to correct something in their irrigation system."
He said the district has given customers several weeks to prepare, including notification by mail, phone and newspaper ads.
“Our customers in our service area have actually really heeded the call and responded without the need for enforcement,” Petersen said. “But nevertheless, enforcement is a tool that we have to have in place.”
“We are in an emergency, and emergencies call for doing some unusual things," he said. "We certainly don't want to be known for being you know, water police... I think our approach to conservation has and will continue to be get information out to the public [and] provide incentive to encourage them to do the right thing.”