BENICIA -- Residents are being urged to cut water use by 20 percent as the city launches a public outreach campaign and considers tougher measures to achieve conservation goals.

The resolution approved Tuesday by the City Council formalized the council's call for voluntary conservation in February as California faces one of the most severe droughts in its history.

Officials with the State Water Project, which typically delivers 85 percent of Benicia's water supply, announced in January that no water would be provided this year. Earlier this month, state officials announced that because of recent rainfall, very limited amounts might be available later in the year.

City officials, however, say the supply situation remains uncertain, especially if the drought continues into next year.

The council also previewed the city's forthcoming household water-conservation public outreach campaign. It will include banners in parks, yard signs, Facebook advertising aimed at Benicia residents and a new website, www.beniciasaveswater.org, with information about conservation and rebates for water-saving modifications.

"We are ready, and we are focused on helping Benicia residents reduce their water by 20 percent in light of this very serious drought that California is experiencing," said Christine Kohn, the city's water conservation outreach consultant.


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Kohn told the council the program will encourage residents to dial back sprinklers by two minutes, restrict watering to early in the morning or late at night, adjust sprinklers to prevent runoff, adjust sprinkler timers monthly and according to the weather, and replace lawns with drought-resistant plants.

"Most water waste occurs outside," Kohn said. "Statistics show more than 50 percent of a household's water use is outdoors and, of that, it's estimated that 30 percent is wasted to over-watering and evaporation."

Indoor tips will include limiting showers to five minutes, checking plumbing and appliances for leaks and fixing them within 48 hours, and installing high-efficiency toilets, shower heads, faucets, dishwashers and clothes washers.

Kohn also revealed the city's water-conservation slogan: "Benicia -- Saving water starts with you."

Also under development as part of the program are direct-mail postcards, water-saving tip cards that can be handed out at community events, and window signs for businesses, she said.

Asked whether the program would be enough to meet the city's conservation goals, Kohn said that remains to be seen.

"I have seen communities ... once they are aware of the issue ... meet their goals," Kohn said. "But sometimes communities also have to add some teeth."

City Manager Brad Kilger added, "We will have the 'teeth' discussion at our next meeting. This is to get the project started."

Contact Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesheraldonline.com or 707-553-6831. Follow him at Twitter.com/tonyburchyns.