A drop for the drip—water waste complaints plummet in Los Angeles

Winter storms bring a downturn in calls about leaky sprinklers and other problems

Illustration of water streaming out of a pipe


Residents of drought-stricken California have largely welcomed the winter rains. Although pummelling storms caused a levee to break in Monterey County, and snowed in people in the San Bernardino Mountains, the unceasing precipitation has helped fill depleted reservoirs and remedy parched landscapes. 


There have been additional benefits in Southern California. The Metropolitan Water District last week announced that it will lift emergency conservation restrictions that had been imposed in June, and that limited 7 million people to watering outdoor areas just once a week.


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There is another local benefit: Complaints to the MyLA311 system about people wasting water in the city of Los Angeles have fallen dramatically. Reports via phone, website or an app in the first two months of 2023 are the lowest they have been in almost a year.


In January, Angelenos made 168 calls to MyLA311 about infractions such as leaky sprinklers or people violating a Department of Water and Power restriction limiting outdoor watering to twice per week, on designated days (this is separate from the MWD directive, as the entities have different customers). That is a 73% drop from the peak hit last August.


The decline continued in February, with 125 complaints.


Monthly line chart of water waste reports in the city of Los Angeles


This follows an uptick which began last spring, after the DWP launched a water-conservation publicity campaign that included highlighting prohibited practices. The increased attention prompted city residents in May to make 314 calls about water waste to MyLA311. That was the highest monthly count since the city began making this data public in 2016.


The call volume increased as temperatures rose. In June there were 589 reports. The apex was the 618 calls in August.


The ultimate result was a record-shattering year, the 4,339 complaints representing a 148% increase from 2021.


Bar chart of annual water waste reports in the city of Los Angeles


Change has come quickly as the weather cooled and then winter rains began. The number of MyLA311 complaints has fallen in each of the last six months.


One thing that remains constant is where the squeaky wheels are: Even with the downturn in volume, complaints proliferate in a few neighborhoods. In 2022, there were 1,049 calls in Mid-Wilshire, representing 24% of the total. Another 471 reports, or about 10.8% of all calls, emanated from Brentwood.


There were 293 water waste reports from Jan. 1–Feb. 28 of this year. According to MyLA311 data, 62 of them, or 21.1%, were from Mid-Wilshire. Another 23, or 7.8%, came from Brentwood. 


Table with neighborhoods with most MyLA311 water waste calls in Los Angeles


These are not the entirety of calls about water waste in the region. The DWP also has a phone and online reporting system, as well as its own Water Conservation Unit


How we did it: We examined publicly available data about water waste reports from the City of Los Angeles MyLA311 system from Jan. 1, 2016–Feb. 28, 2023. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here


Want to know how your neighborhood fares? Or simply just interested in our data? Email us at askus@xtown.la.