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AP: Elite California suburb clamps down on water wasters

CORRECTS SPELLING TO AGOURA HILLS NOT AGORA HILLS Cason Gilmer, a senior field customer service A representative of the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District shows a restrictor that will limit the flow of water in a pipe, in Agoura Hills, Calif., Jan. 5, 2022. The wealthy enclave along the Santa Monica Mountains that is haven to celebrities has taken aggressive steps to try to limit water use during California’s drought, including lowering the thresholds for fines for those who go over their "water budgets" and threatening to add restrictors to pipes that limit water flow to customers who repeatedly fail to conserve. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

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Sacramento-based environment/climate reporter Kathleen Ronayne reported exclusively on a California water district — home to Kim Kardashian and other celebrities — that may have the state’s harshest water restrictions during the current drought.

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, just north of Los Angeles, is among districts that rely almost exclusively on state water supplies. Ronayne learned of the district’s new penalties for water wasters while reporting that in the midst of drought, local districts may not get any of the state water supply they’d requested in 2022. She decided to find out more, reasoning that what’s being imposed in Las Virgenes may serve as a model for other water districts as the drought continues.

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Homes are seen from Las Virgenes Reservoir in Westlake Village, Calif., Jan. 5, 2022. The community, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Greater Los Angeles Area, is served by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which is taking steps against homeowners who use water excessively. – AP Photo / Jae C. Hong

When Las Virgenes officials explained they would slow water flow to a trickle for households that keep wasting, Ronayne knew she had a story. With further reporting, she confirmed that the district’s conservation tactics went further than others.

Ronayne’s exclusive on the district’s approach hooked readers, partly because Las Virgenes serves celebrity-filled neighborhoods. District officials said many rich residents don’t bother to cut back when fined; water isn’t an expensive commodity for them and the penalties aren’t significant — until the water slows to a trickle.

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