Fern Valley Water District is now in the most extreme water shortage emergency — Stage 3. Implementation rules will be disseminated over the next few weeks. The district has been in a Stage 1 condition since June 2014.

The principal reason for moving quickly to a Stage 3 and skipping Stage 2 was Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order declaring a drought emergency. General Manager Steve Erler was anticipating the State Water Resources Control Board would impose mandatory reductions, up to 25 percent.

At the April 17 FVWD meeting, Erler told the board he intended to impose greater conservation efforts. The board unanimously concurred with Erler’s recommendation.

Nevertheless, Erler said, “At this time, I’m still very comfortable with our water supply. There is very little difference now compared to the past month or two.”

Erler compared the current groundwater level of the district’s wells to the levels in April 2002 when FVWD was in a Stage 2 water shortage emergency. On average, the well levels are about 20 inches above the 2002 levels; however, the district’s office well is more than 3 feet lower than 13 years ago and down more than 4 feet in the past year.

Erler estimated that a 25-percent reduction would be about 8.3 million gallons by the end of February 2016. Since FVWD declared a Stage 1 water shortage emergency 10 months ago, Erler said FVWD water consumption has fallen 3.8 percent.

During the last Stage 3, from July 2002 through November 2003, district customers cut their consumption 19.4 percent. But Erler said during the first 12 months of that period, consumption actually fell more than 27 percent, which is one reason for his recommendation — a quick and early jump on a possible state-mandated requirement.

In early May, the SWRCB expects to approve the final rules.

Last week, the state’s Department of Water Resources issued a groundwater update to the state water plan, although fractured-rock aquifers were not included in this report. Local water districts rely on these aquifers for the water from their wells.

Stage 3 includes restrictions, which begin with Stage 2, such as prohibiting irrigating outdoor plants or gardens between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. and the provision of serving drinking water to restaurant patrons only when they request it.

New restrictions imposed during Stage 3 include a prohibition from filling or refilling swimming pools, except to replace evaporation losses, and a prohibition from using water from fire hydrants except for emergencies, maintaining system water quality or delivering construction water.

Violations begin with a notice. For second violation a fine of $100 may be imposed and a third violation could result in a $200 fine, according to Section 6(b) of the district’s Article 15, according to Ward Simmons, attorney with Best, Best and Krieger, the district’s legal counsel. A fourth violation could result in termination of service.