By Daina Beth Solomon
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles County officials voted on Tuesday to charge water users for over-consumption in areas hit with some of California's toughest reduction mandates as the state withers from a four-year drought.
The conservation plan, approved unanimously by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, will charge most consumers in heavy-use regions including Malibu up to twice their usual rates for any consumption exceeding allocated amounts by 15 percent, officials said.
"We generally use a surcharge like this so that people who use over their allotment will understand this is serious," Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told a public meeting on the issue.
The water restrictions are aimed at complying with Governor Jerry Brown's order that the state reduce its urban water use by 25 percent, the first statewide mandatory water-use restriction in California history.
Because some zones must clamp down more than others to reach the target, county officials are taking action at the local level. Some residents had opposed the surcharges, saying the diversity of households, some small and others large, meant that not all consumers should be held to the same standard.
For that reason, county supervisors opted to ax an initial proposal that would have required residents to pay up to three times their usual rate for consuming 15 percent above the average amount, which was set at roughly 650 gallons each day per household in Antelope Valley and 361 gallons per household in Malibu and Topanga Canyon.
Under the plan approved on Tuesday, most users served by the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts and the Marina del Rey Water System must pay one-and-a-half times the usual rate if they over-consume by 15 percent. Those who consume more than 15 percent must pay double.
The move targets the coastal hills of Malibu along with neighboring Topanga Canyon, which have been asked to cut back consumption by 36 percent, while the desert region of Antelope Valley must reduce usage by 32 percent.
Residents will be able to appeal the fees if they can prove a need for extra water, such as owning horses or needing to supply a large household.
Edel Vizcarra, the planning and public works deputy for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents Antelope Valley, said the supervisors would revisit the issue in February. "If it's still dry and we're still in a drought, I can only imagine that we'd have to go further," he said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)