- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a warning to residents Tuesday amid a severe California drought - conserve water now or face mandatory restrictions on use in the future.

The mayor’s plea to get stingy at the faucet and with hoses comes about two weeks after the release of an unsettling tally - the year that ended in September was one of the driest on record in California, with the state getting less than 60 percent of the average precipitation.

Standing outside the downtown headquarters of the city’s Department of Water and Power, the first-term Democrat sketched his plans for a 20-percent reduction in the city’s per-person use of fresh water by 2017 and a 50-percent cut in the use of imported water over a decade.

With the drought, Los Angeles is importing about 80 percent of its water, which the mayor said is not sustainable.

“Current measures are simply not enough,” Garcetti said. The drought “has created a water crisis second to none.”

At first, residents are being asked to take voluntary steps: reduce outdoor watering to two days a week, install low water-use plumbing fixtures and cover pools to prevent evaporation.

But harsher, mandatory restrictions could come if it doesn’t rain and use isn’t cut. Garcetti’s also ordered city agencies to reduce landscape watering and to replace lawns.

The prolonged drought has forced the state to take an array of steps to discourage wasteful use.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown called on Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent when he declared a drought emergency. In July, state water regulators approved fines up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing. Reserves are drying up - the state’s major reservoirs collectively held only 57 percent of average water storage on Sept. 1.

Dozens of other cities, communities and water districts in California have imposed mandatory restrictions or taken other measures this year, according to the Association of California Water Agencies.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a giant wholesaler that provides drinking water for half the California population, has drained two-thirds of its stored supplies as a result of the drought. Without plentiful rain and snow in coming months, the agency could impose cutbacks to its regional distributors that could lead to rationing or cuts for households in portions of Southern California.

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