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As six million residents in California are under strict water restrictions, agencies are cracking down on anyone who breaks the rules.
The main agency is the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which presides over some of the wealthiest areas, such as Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, and areas of Malibu, according to USA Today.
The agency has started installing flow restrictor devices that restrict how much water is allowed to be used inside the home, as well as entirely shutting it off for the outdoors. Since the new rules were enacted, the agency has put in place 56 flow restrictors. The devices have a small hole for water to flow, which results in low-flow showers and appliances that don’t work as well.
Las Virgenes spokesman Mike McNutt said that once the restrictors are installed, they are left there for at least two weeks, but he said only seven of the 56 devices are still in place because the people took the necessary action to get rid of them. He added that an additional 1,600 customers are set to get the devices installed, but the water district can only put 20 in place per week.
“We’re talking celebrities, people who are very wealthy, people who live in gated communities,” McNutt said. “Nobody is getting preferential treatment.”
Up to this point, the group has allegedly gone after people who use the most water, but the violators can get their names removed from the list before a restrictor gets put on their house if they sign a form and bring down their water use.
Kitti McMeel is a 71-year-old portrait photographer who lives in Westlake Village. She told the outlet she’s been trying to bring down her use of water, but she’s received three bills from the district informing her that she has gone over her monthly allowance and she was told she might have to get a flow restrictor.
She has made changes to limit her water use, and began a journal to record it once she received the notifications. “I would like to have a life besides worrying about my water,” she said.
If they put a device her house, she said she “will figure out how to remove it myself or find someone who can remove it for me.”
The agency uses meters to check for water usage, but it also has neighborhood patrols who check to see if people’s sprinklers are being used incorrectly, like other groups in the area that have water limitations. The majority of agencies in Southern California also have a number to call or a way for people to report violators to officials online.
Neighbors have started tattling on people more often in their neighborhood. The department said there were 544 complaints in May of 2021, and in May of this year, there were 1,198 complaints. An initial warning citation for breaking the water rules is free, but a second one costs $200, with the third costing $400. A fourth citation comes in at $600, and it can go up even more, but no one has received a citation since June 1 because the rules are so recent.