LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved water surcharges of up to two times the regular rate for customers in the Antelope Valley, Malibu and Topanga Canyon who fail to cut water use by 30 percent or more to meet new conservation targets.

County officials had originally considered tripling charges to penalize heavy users. But in response to complaints from residents who said the targets — requiring some households to cut use by up to 80 percent — were unfair, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl suggested holding penalties for the first year to a maximum two times the base water cost.

“There is a lot of concern … that everything was so sudden,” Kuehl said of residents’ reaction to the conservation plan at the supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday, June 2.

Some residents said the water-use targets, based on area averages rather than individual household use, were unfair to large families and those who were already working hard to conserve water.

Department of Public Works officials said the allocations were designed to target those using the greatest share of the county’s scarce water resources.

If households were asked to cut use based on their own 2013 baseline, water-efficient households would be forced to “cut from a very low level, which would be almost impossible,” DPW Assistant Deputy Director Adam Ariki said.

Ariki said customers could appeal their allocations on the basis of household size and other critical needs. Staffers committed to resolve appeals within 20 days.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich suggested that local representatives might be appointed to help address some of the issues raised by the plan. The board asked staffers to report back in 30 days on the feasibility of appointing local commissions under board control.

All customers of the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts and the Marina del Rey Water System are being asked to cut back, though those hardest hit are residents of areas with the highest per-capita water use.

Under the plan, residents of Malibu and Topanga Canyon are being asked to cut back water use by 36 percent on average and Antelope Valley residents are subject to a 32 percent cut, using a 2013 baseline.

Many customers already meet their allocations: 46 percent of residents in the Malibu water district and 34 percent of those in Antelope Valley, according to the Department of Public Works.

However, about one-third of residents in both districts use at least 50 percent more water than they are allocated.

Some said it would be impossible to reach targets they’ve been set.

“We’d be thrilled at 32 percent,” Antelope Valley resident Michelle Lewis told the board. But she’s being asked to cut use by 80 percent. “The allotments just don’t seem to be fair.”

Others said they’d be forced to let trees die and wouldn’t have enough water to manage basic needs.

Public works officials said residents would have plenty of water for indoor use as nearly 75 percent of water is used outdoors.

The state has targeted an allocation of 50 gallons per person per day of indoor use and under the county plan, Antelope Valley residents are being allocated 140 gallons per person, according to Ariki.

The county is offering free water audits to residents to help identify ways for them to meet targets without hardship.

Based on the vote, for the first year, surcharges of 50 to 100 percent will be billed to county water district customers who fail to meet set targets. Water used in excess of the target and up to 115 percent of the target will be hit with a 50 percent surcharge. Any additional water used will carry a 100 percent surcharge.

The board unanimously approved the conservation plan as amended.

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