A team of "Drought Busters" driving Toyota Prius hybrids was dispatched throughout Los Angeles this week to educate residents on water waste as the city struggles with a record drought.
Water authorities said the six-person team would give written notices to Angelenos caught wasting water as well as handing out advice on how to cut excessive water use.
Fines are not envisaged at the moment but officials left open the possibility that the Drought Busters could impose penalties if record low rainfall persists.
"We are not in the mandatory water conservation phase at this point and we will not be writing fines," the city's Department of Water and Power chief, Robert Rozanski, told a news conference Tuesday.
He said the Drought Busters "will be informing residents of any violations we see or hear about and give them conservation tips."
According to the city's new "Prohibited Water Use Ordinance," residents may not:
- Use water on hard surfaces such as sidewalks, walkways, driveways or parking areas (with the exception of water brooms);
- Water lawns between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. during April through September, and between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during October through March;
- Allow excess water from sprinklers to flood gutters;
- Use water to clean, fill or maintain decorative fountains unless the water is part of a recirculation system;
- Serve water to customers in eating establishments, unless requested;
- Allow leaks to go unattended.
Los Angeles this year suffered its driest year since rainfall records began 130 years ago, with only 3.2 inches recorded in the downtown area.
The tinder-dry conditions helped fuel a series of wildfires in Southern California last month that destroyed 2,300 buildings, caused 12 deaths and burned more than 500,000 acres.
The city's efforts include taking reports of water violations via phone at 1-800-DIAL-DWP or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.