LIVERMORE -- A Tri-Valley water supplier is asking its 200,000 customers to voluntarily reduce water use 20 percent during the early part of this drought year.

And to ease shortages, the Zone 7 Water Agency board agreed on Wednesday to speed up construction of some $11 million in planned new wells and pipes to deliver and capture local groundwater.

Zone 7 managers said they fear the state will order large and possibly even a 100 percent cut in the district's allocation of state water from the Delta, the source of 80 to 90 percent of the wholesale water the district sells to local water departments serving Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon.

A buoy lies near it’s bucket anchor on the dry lakebed near one of the two swimming areas at Lake Del Valle on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in
A buoy lies near it's bucket anchor on the dry lakebed near one of the two swimming areas at Lake Del Valle on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Livermore, Calif. Water levels in the lake near Livermore are near normal for this time of year, but continued dry weather would leave little winter and spring runoff to fill the lake. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Because it does not sell water directly to homeowners, Zone 7 cannot ration customers directly.

But to reinforce the conservation message in a dry year, the Zone 7 board declared a drought emergency on Wednesday and authorized General Manager Jill Duerig to set the target goal for voluntary conservation.

After the meeting, Duerig said she is asking customers to reduce water use at least 20 percent, a goal she will revisit as the state gets a firmer idea of supplies.

Water board member Angela Ramirez Holmes said she thinks the board should have stepped up and made the call for a 20 percent voluntary savings.

"I prefer it come back to the board as opposed to the general manager making a unilateral decision," Holmes said.

But several board members said they were uncomfortable setting a target that may need to change as supply outlooks become clearer later in the rain season.

Officials noted that it will be up to the Livermore and Pleasanton city councils and the Dublin San Ramon Services District board to decide whether to ration water they get from Zone 7 and sell to local residents.

"We're not going to say you can only have 14 flushes a day," said Sandy Figuers, a Zone 7 water board member.

In the end, the board approved a resolution declaring a local drought emergency, leaving it to the general manager to "establish appropriate levels of conservation."

Meanwhile, the board's emergency declaration will speed up planning and approval to begin drilling two new water wells and building a pipeline to capture and manage more groundwater from the Livermore and Amador valleys.

The first well, called Chain of Lakes number 5, should be ready this summer, delivering 1 million to 2 million gallons per day of groundwater to the district, engineers said

Zone 7 supplies about 40 million gallons of water per day to Livermore, Pleasanton, the Dublin San Ramon Services District, and CalWater-Livermore, a private utility that serves part of Livermore.

One of the two boat docks lies on the dry lakebed of Lake Del Valle on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Livermore, Calif. Water levels in the lake near
One of the two boat docks lies on the dry lakebed of Lake Del Valle on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Livermore, Calif. Water levels in the lake near Livermore are near normal for this time of year, but continued dry weather would leave little winter and spring runoff to fill the lake. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Last week, state officials informed Zone 7 that its allocations of state water could be reduced to zero this year.

Wednesday's light storm did little to bail the state out of its water jam.

The 20 percent voluntary target for Zone 7 matches what Gov. Jerry Brown urged of all Californians on Jan. 17 when he declared a statewide drought emergency.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Santa Clara Valley Water District have requested 10 percent voluntary cutbacks from their customers.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District Board is scheduled to set a conservation goal on Feb. 11.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.