A committee of the Metropolitan Water District, the water wholesaler for Southern California, approved a proposal Monday to ration water to its member agencies in the face of the state's continuing drought.
With the backing of the Water Planning and Stewardship Committee, the full MWD board will consider the proposal Tuesday.
As Gov. Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent cut in water use across California, the MWD is considering strict measures that would cut deliveries to its 26 member cities and agencies.
The committee on Monday was debating the level of restrictions, with some arguing for tighter allocations than the staff recommends. Others voiced fear of "shock" to the economy.
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"(If) you cut water too much too fast without giving corporations time to adjust, we could have a brutal impact on individuals," said Larry Dick of the Municipal Water District of Orange County.
The amount of the cut would be based on each agency's reliance on MWD supplies while also taking into consideration conservation actions already being implemented.
"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. "Most of our local cities, the governor's order is what governs there. They have to achieve a 25 percent reduction.''
Kightlinger said there is "no doubt" water rates will go up, but the message is that residents need to make "significant cuts" in water usage.
Keith Lewinberg of the San Diego County Water Authority pointed out that if a city or a water agency received 100 percent of its water from desalinization, it would still be required to cut 25 percent under the governor's order.
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.
The MWD action would "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 the MWD.
If approved, the allocation would start July 1.
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 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.
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 an MWD staff report.
Conan Nolan contributed to this report.