- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Investor-owned water companies in California have been ordered to request voluntary conservation from customers to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, officials said Friday.

The California Public Utilities Commission said in a statement that the agency voted Thursday to order investor-owned water companies to notify their customers of the request through a bill insert or a direct mailing. If the voluntary measures are not enough, the companies may apply to the commission to activate mandatory rationing.

There are 116 investor-owned water utilities and 14 wastewater utilities under the CPUC’s jurisdiction.

Jack Hawks, a spokesman for the California Water Association, which represents the utilities’ interests, said it was no surprise that companies were ordered to ask their customers to conserve, since the state has been suffering from a long-term drought.

“A number of companies have already been doing it,” Hawks said, but the decision is “absolutely a good thing.”

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