LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District, the water wholesaler for Southern California, has voted to mandate a 15 percent cut in the amount of water it supplies to its 26 member agencies.

MWD officials said it was only the fourth time in the agency’s history that it has taken such an action.

“Southern California has led the way in water conservation for more than 20 years, and now we’re asking people to do significantly more,” said Randy Record, chairman of the MWD board. “We know it will be difficult, but we’re in an unprecedented drought.”

The board’s Water Planning and Stewardship Committee approved the drought-management plan on Monday, April 13.

The amount of the cut to each city or agency would be based on their reliance on MWD supplies, while also taking into consideration conservation actions already being implemented. Cities and agencies that use more than their MWD allocation would have to pay punitive costs ranging from $1,480 to $2,960 per acre-foot of water. An acre-foot is roughly the amount of water needed to serve two households for a year.

“We are serving water at a wholesale level, and so we are sending a message to our member agencies that you will have to pay a surcharge if you don’t achieve a 15 percent reduction of Metropolitan’s imported water usage,” MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said after the committee vote. 

“Most of our local cities, the governor’s order is what governs there. They have to achieve a 25 percent reduction.”

The MWD action will “implement surcharges on member agencies that don’t reduce their deliveries in order to achieve a roughly 15 percent reduction in regional deliveries,” according to an MWD staff report.

MWD officials said that in addition to limiting the amount of water it supplies to its members, it will also move ahead with efforts including expanded media campaigns to encourage conservation, working with the state for funding of rebate and conservation-incentive programs, and monthly tracking of its members’ usage rates to ensure compliance.

Adopting restrictions on water deliveries “is consistent with actions taken by our member agencies and retail agencies and will assist in public outreach efforts to communicate the severity of the current drought and the need for conservation in managing through the drought,” according to the MWD report.

Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a 25 percent reduction in water use across the state.