The Contra Costa Water District board of directors approved a drought management plan Wednesday night that calls for customers to reduce their water usage by 15 percent beginning May 1, a district spokeswoman said Thursday.
While the rationing is not intended to increase water rates, customers who use more than 1,000 gallons per day and who fail to make the 15 percent reduction will be charged an excess use charge of four times the normal rate.
Customers who use less than 1,000 gallons per day and who continue to use the same amount of water will not be charged an excess use rate, said Senior Public Information Specialist Jennifer Allen.
Anyone who increases water use will have to pay an excess use charge of four times the average rate, she added.
People who have had a change in their household and need a higher allocation can apply for an adjustment, Allen said.
The district made special provisions in the new ordinance for industrial customers, who are only being asked to reduce water use by 5 percent, and un-metered irrigation and agricultural customers, who are being asked to reduce their water use by 45 percent.
The water rationing plan also prohibits certain water uses, including washing sidewalks and driveways, washing cars with hoses that don't have a shut-off nozzle and operating decorative fountains that don't re-circulate water. Over-watering lawns and filling decorative ponds are also banned, according to the district.
The decision to impose mandatory water rationing came after the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the district's water, reduced the district's allocation by 55 percent, Allen said.
The same day news broke about the water content of the snowpack in California being 81 percent of normal for this date, the California Department of Water Resources. The snowpack's water content was 80 percent of normal in March.
The fourth of five measurements during the winter season was taken Thursday at the Phillips Station and other sites near Lake Tahoe, the DWR said.
The monthly measurements help water supply planners estimate the amount of spring snowmelt runoff into reservoirs. Snow water content is important in determining the coming year's water supply and helps hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts, state officials said.
"A below-average snowpack at this time of year, especially following two consecutive dry years is a cause for concern," DWR Director Lester Snow said.
"Our most critical storage reservoirs remain low, and we face severe water supply problems in many parts of the state. Californians must continue to save water at home and in their businesses," Snow said.
Manual surveys taken at four locations near Lake Tahoe and electronic readings indicate a snowpack water content of 87 percent in the Northern Sierra, 80 percent in the Central Sierra, and 77 percent in the Southern Sierra, the DWR said. The readings last month were 84, 77 and 83 percent respectively.
Last year at this time the snowpack was 95 percent of normal, reflecting a drop of more than 20 percent from March 2008 caused by the driest spring on record, the DWR said.
The snowpack continued to melt early in 2008, resulting in a second consecutive critically dry water year, the DWR said.
Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water
Project, is only at 56 percent capacity, the DWR said.
Continuing dry conditions and regulatory restrictions on Delta water exports are limiting water deliveries to farms and urban areas. The DWR said it expects to be able to deliver only 20 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California.