Water rationing goes into effect immediately for Montecito and Summerland areas as the Montecito Water District tries to cut use by 30 percent.

The district’s Board of Directors approved a rationing plan Friday, and will start handing out penalties for the April billing period.

District leaders predict that the area will be completely out of water by July since customer demand is higher than ever as supplies dwindle. Water could run out even sooner if there’s a major fire.

Board members declared a shortage emergency last week with water-use restrictions but decided it wasn’t enough.

The next water year starts Oct. 1, and the rationing aims to cut use by 30 percent in the current year.

General Manager Tom Mosby said the district is trying to buy more water and wants Santa Barbara to reactivate its desalination plant so Montecito can partner up.

Rationing penalties will charge people for every 748-gallon unit they use over the allocation amount. Some residents at the Tuesday meeting doubted that a fine would deter many of Montecito’s wealthy residents from using water on their estates.

If people don’t comply with the rationing rules, the district can install flow restricters or even shut off water entirely, Mosby said.

The board also approved a “carry-forward adjustment”: If a customer goes over their ration amount, they get penalties and the future year’s ration will be reduced by that much.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.