Following three consecutive years of drought, the Marina del Rey Water System, part of the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts (Districts), is advising customers to reduce their water use or face surcharges.

The Water System is receiving 15 percent less water from suppliers, which has required customers to cut down on their water use, a Waterworks Districts spokesman said. This urgent measure comes on the heels of Gov. Schwarzenegger declaring a drought state of emergency in February and an April decision by Southern California’s largest water supplier, Metropolitan Water District (Metropolitan), to implement mandatory water conservation restrictions.

As a buyer in Metropolitan’s supply chain, the Waterworks Districts will be forced to pass surcharges for excessive water use onto its own customers, the agency spokesman said.

The cutbacks will require customers to use 85 percent or less of the district-wide average amount of water used during 2004-2006 or face surcharges. Surcharges will be twice the normal rate for water use that is 15 percent over the target, and three times the normal rate for excessive water used beyond that.

Residents already using less than the average will see no change to their water bills. These cutback requests were outlined to each customer in a letter sent in June.

“These new conservation measures should alert businesses that now is the time to evaluate their current water use and begin implementing conservation practices,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. “By making simple changes to daily operations, businesses can significantly reduce water use while also avoiding penalties.”

The new water-use restrictions are augmenting significant strides already taken by the district to reduce waste, including an existing voluntary water reduction campaign that reduced overall water usage in the district by nine percent in the summer of 2008 compared to the summer of 2007, as well as a recently launched rebate program for water-saving devices, the district spokesman said.

Marina del Rey businesses and residents can cut water use by making a few simple changes to daily operations and taking advantage of rebates for water saving hardware and appliances. The rebate program and a free onsite survey program to evaluate water use and make recommendations to increase efficiency offered to districts customers will help businesses progress toward the governor’s goal of 20 percent reduction by 2020.

Among the tips to cut water use are signing up for a free onsite water use survey, restaurants serving water to customers only upon request, using an automatic hose nozzle to wash boats and installing water-saving hardware.

“Many customers already understand the need to conserve, so the new restrictions and water use awareness will give them the extra motivation to take action and cut waste,” said Melinda Barrett, Water Conservation manager with the districts. “Our objective is to help businesses save both water and money, two things that are very important to us all.”