Posh Beverly Hills approves water restrictions, fines amid drought

LOS ANGELES - Beverly Hills, the southern California city renowned for Hollywood-tinged glamour and luxury, approved stricter water restrictions on Tuesday, including bans on filling new swimming pools and $1,000 fines for water violations.

Faced with an order from the governor to cut water use dramatically as the state reels from a three-year drought, the five-member city council approved the measures at the end of a three-hour afternoon meeting.

Beverly Hills is one of the nation's most affluent cities, with palm tree-lined avenues and mansions surrounded by emerald-green lawns, fountains and pools.

California's upscale communities have been criticised for using more water than working-class cities and towns as the state grapples with a devastating drought that has already forced tough new conservation measures and badly depleted reservoirs.

"We have these large properties and we're known as a garden city," Beverly Hills spokeswoman Therese Kosterman said. "One of our challenges is to redefine what garden city should look like and we're hoping that the measures the city council adopts today will get us moving in the right direction."

The council approved provisions that outlaw the filling of new swimming pools, though existing pools can be refilled, and limited lawn watering to two days a week per household down from three, Kosterman said. Residents who violate the restrictions could be fined up to $1,000.

The city's Public Works Commission recommended prohibiting the use of water fountains and barring washing cars. While the council did ban the washing of cars outside homes, it decided not to shut down the city's fountains.

Kosterman conceded that some Beverly Hills residents might take exception to having an empty swimming pool or letting lawns go brown at their multi-million dollar mansions, but said most "understand that we're in a severe drought and we need to conserve water."

California Governor Jerry Brown this month ordered a 25 per cent reduction in urban water use, the first such statewide mandatory water-use restrictions in California history.

Responding to criticism from local leaders, that plan was later revised to require that cities such as Beverly Hills, which used the most water, make deeper cuts.