Starting July 1, the water wholesaler that provides 19 million people across Southern California and San Diego County with much of their drinking water will be cutting supplies by 15 percent.
The cut was finalized Tuesday by the board of the Metropolitan Water District. The region's largest wholesaler, MWD buys water from Northern California and the Colorado River and sells it to cities and local water agencies stretching from Ventura County to the Mexican border.
The move comes as MWD looks to shore up emergency water reserves in the face of California's epic drought, now in its fourth year. Officials want to make sure there are enough water reserves to sustain the region in case the drought grinds on.
Agencies that request more than their reduced allocations will pay substantial penalties -- up to four times the normal rate -- for any extra water they use.
Tuesday's action marks the fourth time MWD has reduced supplies. Cuts of 10 percent were enacted most recently in July 2009 and lasted through April 2011. Reductions of 17 percent were put in place in 1991.
Under previous reductions, all 26 water districts that make up MWD took steps to reduce demand and were able to avoid penalties by staying within their allotments.
Not all agencies will face a 15 percent reduction in supplies. The individual numbers will be determined by the availability of local supplies and how much water the districts have saved already.
“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 Metropolitan board Chairman Randy Record. “We know it will be difficult, but we’re in an unprecedented drought.”