The East Bay Municipal Utility District has taken the extraordinary step of declaring a stage four critical drought.
On Tuesday, the district's board of directors approved mandatory 20-percent cutbacks and stricter outdoor watering rules. The board also set the stage for up to 25-percent rate increases and penalties for customers who over-use -- charges the district plans to implement in the coming months.
The district's water storage in all reservoirs combined is expected to be at a one-third capacity by Oct. 1.
"EBMUD staff for decades has planned for a worst-case scenario of a three-year severe drought. So far, our plans have worked. We've managed through this drought with minimal impact to customers or the local economy.
We can't know how dry next winter will be so we must save as much as we can starting today," general manager Alexander Coate said in a statement.
Tuesday's decision for mandatory 20-percent cutbacks will go into effect immediately and follow the request by Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order issued on April 1.
In 2014, customers saved 12 percent of water compared to their 2013 use, EBMUD staff said. So far, conservation efforts in 2015 are only at 6 percent since the start of the year.
Meanwhile, grey water installer Leonard Edmonson and his team spent Tuesday installing a "laundry to escape" system, which reroutes an Albany family's washing machine water from the sewer to the garden.
"You can use lighty-used water form the washer and plumb that to your garden and re-use that water to irrigate your plants," Edmonson said.