Bay Area residents installing drought-tolerant landscapes to accommodate water restrictions

Water levels are approaching record lows at the Nicasio Reservoir in Marin County for this time of year with conditions only worsening. It's one illustration of how dire the drought is.

"Our storage capacity is at 45%. Typically this time of year we see levels at 90%" said Marin Water spokeswoman Jeanne Mariani-Belding.

Marin Water was the first utility to impose mandatory rationing

"The biggest savings can always be found outdoors through irrigation cutbacks," Belding said.

That's why the CNL Native Plant Nursery in Mill Valley is seeing more people interested in drought-tolerant landscapes.

"People are buying a lot of California native plants. Business has increased," said owner Dan Dufficy. He said native plants thrive in dry climates.

"These plants are designed to be in the ground on very low irrigation drip systems for the first two years. After that, they're off on their own and don't require any water at all," he said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday included the North Bay Coast in the exceptional drought category. That's the most serious designation, which includes seven Bay Area counties.

Marin saw an 11% dip in water use last week. The water agency would like to get to 40% district-wide.

In Sonoma County, the water agency is asking most county residents for a voluntary 20% cut in consumption for now.

Water officials are expected to cut allocations from the Russian River by 20%. Voluntary measures are expected to become mandatory by next month. Rationing could eventually reach 30% by year's end.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has imposed a 15% cut in water usage.

The San Francisco PUC and East Bay MUD have not imposed mandatory restrictions as of yet.