VALLEY VILLAGE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) --The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has unveiled a plan that would, in the worst of cases, fine major water wasters up to $40,000 for not cutting back on their consumption.
Officials say some customers are continuing to use an extraordinary amount of water.
"Some are very large properties. Some may need a lot of water, but we look at what are the needs of the property, what's a proper use of water, what's an efficient use of water, give them their own individualized water budgets, but then hold them to it," said Marty Adams, LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager of Water System.
Some officials worry that some customers who are already conserving water are going to be punished.
"I have fruit trees and I grow vegetables. Will there be an individualized water budget or is that going to be part of my water use?" LADWP Commissioner Jill Banks Barad asked during a board meeting.
The department says it wants to work with users rather than just penalize them, but they also want penalties in place just in case.
Los Angeles is currently in Phase 2 of the mandatory water conservation ordinance.
Under the current phase, first-time violators receive warnings, and subsequent violations trigger penalties. Violations like watering more than three days a week and watering outdoors during periods of rain can cost repeat residential violators up to $300.
In Phase 5, under the proposed changes, the fines would increase to up to $1,200 in the worst drought conditions and the highest water-wasters could face up to a $40,000 fine.
"The worst case condition is that if we're in Phase 5 of the ordinance, where nobody gets to water outdoors, nobody has a green lawn, but then for maybe 18 months you continue to say, 'I'm going to buy water and I'm going to water my lawn regardless,' that fine could go $40,000 a month... We're a long way from being there," Adams said.
The plan, which still has to be approved by the L.A. City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti, follows months of unprecedented cutback orders to communities, businesses and the powerful agriculture industry during the fifth year of the devastating dry spell in California.
If approved, the plan could go into effect as soon as this summer.