Drought Masthead

March 9, 2015

For the most recent state-wide drought report, click here.

For the most recent State Snow Survey, click here.


Mandatory Rationing and Penalties Temporarily Suspended

Beginning with the December billing cycle, the Water Department temporarily suspended rationing penalties. Why? Three main reasons: 1) the water uses we were trying to eliminate during the the dry season (like landscape irrigation) don't typically happen during the winter season,  2) we've received enough rain since October 1 to move from using our reservoir as our main source of drinking water to using our flowing sources, so our reservoir can recharge, 3) Our customers have demonstrated their commitment to conservation; our commitment to our customers is to only impose mandatory rationing, and the associated penalties, when absolutely necessary.

We're headed in the right direction, but we're still not out of the woods. Unfortunately, we cannot predict when the drought will end. We do know that it would take an above-average winter—at least 60 inches of rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains—to end this drought completely. We understand and appreciate the difficulty that extended rationing places on our customers. Thank you for all of your continued water conservation efforts.

On October 14th, City Council voted to extend the Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency on a month-to-month basis until water supply conditions improve. As of December 9, Stage 3 mandatory rationing has been temporarily suspended in favor of voluntary rationing.
12 inches. That’s how much rain was needed before the Water Department considered lifting rationing for the winter. Twelve inches of rain replenished our watershed—the local rivers that make up our water sources—to the point where we could rely entirely on the rivers for water for the rest of the winter without drawing down Loch Lomond. Check out the weekly water conditions to see our rainfall to date.
For water conservation tips for residential properties, click here. You are also welcome to stop by the conservation office for information and free water-saving devices.


STAGE 3 MANDATORY RATIONING -- As of December 9, we are temporarily under voluntary rationing. However we will keep this information on mandatory rationing available should we need to revert back to it.

On February 25, 2014, after reviewing continued extreme drought conditions, the City Council passed a resolution declaring a Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency within the City of Santa Cruz water service area. Stage 3 is a level of water shortage requiring significant action by the community to reduce system-wide water use by 25%, to avoid using our limited water storage.

The three primary measures to be put in place in a Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency are:

  • Enforced water rationing for single family and multi-family residential accounts.
  • Significantly scaled back water budgets for large irrigation accounts.
  • Mandatory water assessments, conservation plans and signage for commercial accounts.


For information on requirements for businesses during a stage 3 water shortage, click here.

For the large sign required for businesses to post, click here.

For the small sign required for business bathrooms, click here.


When will rationing begin, and how is rationing enforced?

Rationing began May 1, 2014. Each household was given a water allotment. If household water use goes over the allotment, penalties will be added to the bill. Penalties can add up quickly.For information on residential water allotments and penalties for using more than your allotment, click here. ASIGNACION DE AGUA PARA SU RESIDENCIA EN ESPANOL

For detailed information on rationing water restrictions, click here.

For multi-family accounts, complete the two-page Application for a Multi-Family Census Based Allotment.

Meter Reading Schedules



Here are some guidelines to stay within your ration:

  • Calculate your water allotment.
  • Read your water meter and understand your water bill.
  • Know where your water goes!


  • Fix leaks.
  • Install aerators on sinks and low-flow showerheads in bathrooms -- available for FREE from the Water Department.
  • Utilize City rebates to replace toilets, washing machines and turf.


  • Limit showers to 5 minutes or less.
  • Turn off landscape irrigation, such as sprinkler systems.
  • Only run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.

For information on ways to save water at home, click here.

For information on savings for commercial properties, click here.

Drought Resources 

Department of Water Resources  - State Drought Information
Governor Brown's Drought State of Emergency Proclamation
Drought Monitor Map
Santa Cruz Water Supply Outlook

Current Water Conditions in Santa Cruz

Voluntary Water Restrictions are in Effect
Weekly Water Conditions

Water Conservation

Save Our Water
Water Conservation Tips
Water Use Calculator
Free Water Conservation Devices
How to Read your Water Meter
Greywater Information
How to Check for Leaks
Help Your Trees Survive the Drought


Santa Cruz Water Shortage Contingency Plan

Media Contact:
Eileen Cross