From: Reuters
Published November 13, 2007 07:11 PM

Who's L.A. gonna call? -- "Drought Busters"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A team of "Drought Busters" driving hybrid Toyota Prius cars was dispatched throughout Los Angeles on Tuesday 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.

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"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.

He said the Drought Busters "will be informing residents of any violations we see or hear about and give them conservation tips."

Under new city laws, Angelenos are prohibited from using water to hose down sidewalks, water their lawns in the daytime or allow their lawn sprinklers to flood gutters.

Restaurants can serve water to customers only if requested. A telephone hotline for neighbors to snitch on violators has also been set up.

Los Angeles this year suffered its driest year since rainfall records began 130 years ago, with only 3.2 inches (8.1 cm) 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.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Eric Beech)

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