New water use restrictions proposed Tuesday by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could slam local building owners, gardeners and plant nursery operators in a few weeks.

In the most sweeping restrictions in 30 years, Villaraigosa proposed Tuesday limiting outdoor watering to just two days a week Monday and Thursday and sharply raising water rates when customers exceed predetermined thresholds. Violators of the twice-a-week watering restrictions face fines of up to $600, with water shutoffs possible after five violations.

These are on top of current restrictions that went into effect last spring, including limiting outdoor watering to certain times of the day and penalizing property owners who have sprinklers on during rainstorms.

In announcing his stepped up water conservation plan, Villaraigosa cited cutbacks in water supplies from the state and federal governments and a three-year drought that this past week's rain has done little to alleviate.

"Water shortages are becoming permanent realities," Villaraigosa said. "The message is simple: if you save water, you will save money."

The outdoor watering restrictions would apply to both residential and commercial structures and to most outdoor landscaping. To monitor for violators, Villaraigosa proposed doubling the Department of Water & Power's water conservation staff.

For multifamily and commercial properties, the tiered pricing system would be based mostly on usage during the first quarter of 2008, with a maximum allotment for each water meter of 21,000 gallons per month.

The proposed restrictions must be approved by the L.A. Department of Water & Power Board of Commissioners and the City Council; they would take effect immediately upon council approval.

If they take effect, the restrictions would be the most serious since the drought of 1976 through 1978, which marked the last time outdoor watering was limited to specific days of the week.

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