Beverly Hills fined for not conserving enough water in drought

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 30, 2015 2:45 PM

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Upscale Beverly Hills is among four California cities where water utilities have been fined for not forcing residents to conserve enough water during California's unrelenting four-year drought, officials said on Friday.

The wealthy Los Angeles area municipality was fined $61,000 on Thursday, making it the only community not located in a desert singled out for penalties, the California State Water Resources Board said.

"Some urban water suppliers simply have not met the requirements laid before them," said Cris Carrigan, director of the water board's Office of Enforcement. “For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late."

"For those who aren't (conserving) and who are wasting water, you should be ashamed of yourselves," Carrigan said.

Californians are under orders from the water board and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to cut water usage by 25 percent over the levels used in 2013. As a whole, the state has met that goal for four months running, regulators said on Friday.

From June through August, California residents and businesses have saved 253 billion gallons of water, board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus told reporters on Friday.

But the cities of Beverly Hills, Indio and Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District have not met the standard and each were fined $61,000, the board said.

Beverly Hills, where some wealthy property owners continue to maintain lush green lawns despite orders to conserve, residents used about 169 gallons of water per person during the month of September, compared to 68 gallons used by residents of Los Angeles.

Beverly Hills residents have wasted 175 million gallons of water since June, Carrigan said on the conference call.

The city of Beverly Hills did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The municipalities and utilities that received the fines had all been warned in August that they were not meeting the state's mandated conservation targets, Carrigan said. He said he expected them to pay the fines from reserve funds and did not know whether the agencies would seek to recoup the money from ratepayers.

Regulators urged continued conservation even if the El Nino weather phenomenon brings winter storms to the state, because the precipitation may not fall far enough north to replenish the vital mountain snowpack that melts in the spring to feed the state's streams and reservoirs.

"We're in a tough pickle on this," Marcus said. "We have to prepare for drought and flooding at the same time."

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Beech)