As drought continues, Los Angeles water waste calls soar

More people than ever are reporting their neighbors for leaky sprinklers or watering on the wrong day

Illustration of water streaming out of a pipe


In August, 618 complaints about water waste flowed to the MyLA311 system. It was a record number of calls to the phone number and website where Los Angeles residents can report problems or place requests for municipal services.


Perhaps even more notable: It marked the fifth time this year that a monthly record has been set for MyLA311 water waste calls (the publicly available data goes back to 2016).


In 2021, an average of 146 complaints were fielded each month. This January, a new high of 191 was registered. The record was broken again in March and May, before soaring to 589 calls in June. 


Line chart of water waste reports to LAPWP system


Calls are made for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people report a leaky sprinkler or hose. Other times neighbors may complain about someone watering their lawn on a day it is not allowed. Certain individuals make complaints to the system almost daily.


The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power also has a complaint system, which generates even more calls. The DWP’s Water Conservation Response Unit, which tabulates the combined number of MyLA311 complaints and direct calls to the DWP, tallied 2,346 reports of water waste in August. 


DWP complaint numbers for September are still being finalized. The MyLA311 system that month logged 528 reports. 


Horizontal car chart of water waste calls from May-August


“The uptick in water waste reports, as well as the continued water conservation month after month, reaffirms that Angelenos are taking the drought seriously,” said Mia Rose-Wong, a DWP spokesperson.


Too little rain

The water waste calls come at a critical time, with the ongoing drought making this California’s driest three-year period on record. Forecasts of continued drier-than-average conditions could mean the state loses 10% of its water supply by 2040


The drought has prompted figures including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti to ask people to conserve even more. Some are listening: This August, Angelenos recorded the lowest water usage for any August on record, according to a statement from Garcetti


Water use had also gone down in June and July compared with previous years. The reductions follow the city’s move to two-day-a-week watering in June. That was when the DWP also stepped up the cost of fines for violations, and boosted the number of response units. 


Rose-Wong said that conservation requests, in English and Spanish, “continue to spur customers to action, whether it’s conserving water in their own homes and businesses, or reporting water waste that they see.”


In May, prior to the stepped-up campaign, the DWP issued 64 warning citations and four fines for water waste. In August, there were 89 warnings and three fines. 


Table of water waste citatins and fines


A new neighborhood for complaints 

During the past two years, Mid-Wilshire and Brentwood have consistently been the neighborhoods in the city generating the most water waste complaints. In August, Mid-Wilshire produced 116 calls, and 61 came from Brentwood. 


August brought an unusual spike in Atwater Village. In recent years, the neighborhood generally recorded one or two calls per month, and never more than four. Yet in August, there were 78 reports of water waste in the community on the east side of the city. Last month, there were 26.  


One street in particular is responsible for the uptick. From Aug. 1–Sept. 31, 89 water waste complaints were made about residences on Edenhurst Avenue, with three specific addresses for single-family homes with modest front lawns combining for 53 of those reports. It is unclear if more than one person was making complaints.


There were also 16 water waste complaints about incidents on Hollypark Place, another residential street. 


How we did it: We examined publicly available data about water waste reports from the City of Los Angeles’ MyLA311 call center from Jan. 1, 2016–Sept. 30, 2022. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here


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