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Drought: California Gets Tough On Water Usage Violators

As a historic drought grips southern California, one district is getting tough on water usage violators by reducing their supply directly from the source so that sprinklers and outdoor hoses no longer work.

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in Calabasas, north of Los Angeles, places metal disks with a small hole into the main water supply lines to offending homes. Flow per minute drops from around 30 gallons to just one gallon - enough for cooking, washing dishes and showers, but not gardening.

"We're trying to get their attention," said David Pedersen, general manager for the district. "The intent is not to be punitive."

Engineers at the district developed the flow restrictor onsite, said Senior Field Customer Representative Cason Gilmer.

"We thought we could just maybe go buy something from the hardware store, but it didn't exist anywhere," he said. "We kind of had to get creative and make a washer with the correct size hole that would be sufficient for the water flow that we were looking for."

Local residents welcomed the initiative.

"It's an outstanding idea," said Arthur Bender, a 63-year-old homeowner. "I certainly don't mind the idea of slapping somebody's wrist to get them to pay attention in class kind of thing."

Since June 1, some 6 million Southern California residents have been ordered to water their lawns and gardens no more than once a week because of the drought.

In May, California Governor Gavin Newsom warned he would order strict cutbacks on water usage statewide if businesses and residents did not slash their consumption.

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