Posh Beverly Hills considers empty pools, $1,000 fines amid drought

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2015 4:32 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Beverly Hills, the southern California city whose name evokes Hollywood-tinged glamour and luxury, is considering banning the refilling of swimming pools and fining residents $1,000 for water violations.

Faced with an order from the governor to cut water use dramatically as the state reels from a three-year drought, city council members were expected to meet most of Tuesday afternoon before voting on which restrictions to impose on their well-heeled residents.

Beverly Hills is one of the nation's most affluent cities, with palm tree-lined avenues and mansions surrounded by emerald-green lawns, fountains and pools.

California's upscale communities have been criticized for using more water than working-class cities and towns as the state grapples with a devastating drought that has already forced tough new conservation measures and badly depleted reservoirs.

"We have these large properties and we're known as a garden city," Beverly Hills spokeswoman Therese Kosterman said. "One of our challenges is to redefine what garden city should look like and we're hoping that the measures the city council adopts today will get us moving in the right direction."

Among the recommendations that council members will consider during the meeting will be ordering restaurants to serve water to customers only on request, banning the refilling of swimming pools and restricting landscape watering to selected days.

The city's Public Works Commission has also recommended prohibiting the use of water fountains and barring washing cars and buildings. Residents who violate any of those restrictions could be fined up to $1,000, under the proposals.

Kosterman conceded that some Beverly Hills residents might take exception to having an empty swimming pool or letting lawns go brown at their multi-million dollar mansions, but said most "understand that we're in a severe drought and we need to conserve water."

California Governor Jerry Brown this month ordered a 25 percent reduction in urban water use, the first such statewide mandatory water-use restrictions in California history.

Responding to criticism from local leaders, that plan was later revised to require that cities such as Beverly Hills, which used the most water, make deeper cuts.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Doina Chiacu)