Jose Villanueva, left, and Francisco Calderon, right, of Roxy Designs in Pleasant Hill works on re-landscaping this home with low-water plants in
Jose Villanueva, left, and Francisco Calderon, right, of Roxy Designs in Pleasant Hill works on re-landscaping this home with low-water plants in Pittsburg, Calif., on Thursday, March 13, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

CONCORD -- Contra Costa Water District customers are being asked to voluntarily cut water use 15 percent this year, but they will not face higher drought rates to penalize those who fall short, the agency's water board decided Wednesday.

To reinforce the savings plea, the district announced it will enforce its little-known bans on wasteful practices such as washing down pavement, flooding street gutters or watering after 9 a.m. and before 5 p.m.

Flagrant violators won't be fined, but neither will they be ignored. They will get notices or visits from water district employees.

Those who ignore repeated warnings could have a flow restricter installed to limit flows to their delivery pipes.

Roxy Wolosenko, left, of Roxy Designs in Pleasant Hill works on re-landscaping this home with low-water plants in Pittsburg, Calif., on Thursday, March 13,
Roxy Wolosenko, left, of Roxy Designs in Pleasant Hill works on re-landscaping this home with low-water plants in Pittsburg, Calif., on Thursday, March 13, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

The district's drought program was approved on a 5-0 vote, and takes effect April 1. It applies directly to its 250,000 customers in Concord, Clayton, Clyde, Port Costa, and portions of Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Martinez.

Customers are asked to reduce water use 15 percent below consumption between 2005 and 2007, a figure printed on the back of water bills.

The district also is asking local water systems that buy untreated water from CCWD to enact similar voluntary conservation plans this year for their 250,000 customers in Antioch, Pittsburg, Martinez, Oakley and Bay Point.

"I trust our customers," said Bette Boatmun, a water board member. "They will do a good job. They have done it in past droughts."

In 2009 when the district adopted drought rates, customers reduced their water use by 18 percent, exceeding the district's 15 percent target.

The water agency needs both consumer conservation and water withdrawals from the recently expanded Los Vaqueros Reservoir to get through this dry year and leave some reserves in case it's dry again next season, officials said.

The district's main water source is being cut sharply this year. The federal Bureau of Reclamation is slashing the district's allocation of Delta water in half, from 170,000 acre feet to 85,000 acre feet. Last year, the district used about 109,535 acre feet. An acre foot is enough water to cover an acre of land a foot deep in water.

The district's shortage this year is significant, but it's not severe enough to warrant a rationing program with steep financial penalties for overuse, said Brice Bledsoe, a district assistant general manager.

To encourage outdoor savings, the water board agreed Wednesday to double rebates offered to customers to replace lawn with drought-resistant landscapes.

The rebate rate increases from 50 cents to $1 per each square foot of lawn removed. The maximum rebate increases from $500 to $1,000 per home.

The board also agreed for the first time to provide a rebate up to $150 for a homeowner to hire a landscape professional for a consultation on how to plan a conversion to less-thirsty plants.

Jerry Brown, the district general manager, said many people want to retire some lawn, but they want expert advice on how to plan a non-thirsty landscape.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267 or dcuff@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.

ccwd water saving plan
District customers have two ways to find out if their water use this year is meeting a voluntary target for a 15 percent reduction.
They can check the back of their water bill to find their base water use for 2005 to 2007 and then calculate to see if consumption this year is 15 percent less.
Customers also can visit www.ccwater.com/ and click on the news article about the 15 percent savings programs to call up a water calculator with instructions. Customers also can call the district at 925-688-8000.