Los Angeles Water and Power is ordered to pay $30 million to a conservation group

Los Angeles is running out of water, and time. Are leaders willing to act?

Water, water everywhere, the best drink on earth, the most precious of all commodities, is running out. Yet only 20 percent of Americans say that they’re taking action now, according to a March survey by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. Only 2 percent say that they’ve called someone about conservation. In the face of the crisis, the people of Los Angeles are not taking the problem seriously and the mayor has been unable to do much about it. But that’s starting to change, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The problem has been going on for years, but has finally caught fire. Los Angeles Water and Power, which manages water and power for Los Angeles, has repeatedly ignored a court order to pay more than $30 million to a group of conservation activists. Last month, The Times reported that in January, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard T. Rizoria had ordered the utility to pay $30 million in damages and $6 million in attorney fees to the group, the California Rural Water Association.

So far, the utility has paid only $6 million, and the judge allowed it to keep $6 million more, which is all of the money that was on the hook. But now, the utility has been ordered to pay the balance, too. “We are hoping that this will set a precedent for the court system throughout California,” said attorney David Gold, who represents the conservation group in the case. “We think our position is strong because we brought the suit early on in the process and did a cost-benefit analysis on the benefits and costs.”

The judge ruled in favor of the association even though the utility didn’t pay a dime to the group until December. Although the group filed suit in 2002, the utility has been stalling for four years in paying the damages, since it had no money on the hook. The judge ruled that Los Angeles County should pay the full amount. “At a time when consumers are being held hostage by high energy prices, it is unconscionable that a community like Los Angeles that is at least as water-thirsty as Seattle should have such a high-priced

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