Lake County on Tuesday joined a growing number of counties, cities and water agencies that have declared drought emergencies.

A Lake County groundwater study has indicated that some area wells are producing sufficient water for their users but others are being depleted by the drought, said Lake County Supervisor Tony Farrington.

"In some areas, this is the worst drought they've seen in the history of the county," he said.

Emergency declarations are a prerequisite to applying for state and federal drought assistance, Farrington noted.

Emergency steps that might be utilized with that funding include transporting water to water-depleted areas, drilling new wells and water connections to link water districts, officials said.

County supervisors also voted to implement stringent, phase 3 emergency water conservation measures for three small, water-short districts that are overseen by the county's Special Districts Administration.

Most of the people in those districts already are doing their part by limiting their water use to 50 gallons a day, said Special Districts Administrator Mark Dellinger. But an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of users in the three districts — Paradise Valley, Starview and Bonanza Springs — have been using nearly half the available water, he said.

"This urgency ordinance is directed at those that have failed to make any efforts to conserve water and are jeopardizing the entire water system with excessive water use," according to his report to county supervisors.

The 60 to 70 upscale homes along Clear Lake's north shore served by the Paradise Valley water district have actually increased their water usage since last year, despite earlier requests for water conservation, according to Dellinger's report.

He said the increased usage is attributed to 8 percent of those properties. He declined to speculate how the water was being utilized, but it's probably not for outdoor irrigation. The subdivision has a separate surface water system for outdoor landscaping purposes, Dellinger noted in his report.

The new conservation measures include tiered rates that penalize people who use lots of water.

They also include fines for people who continue to use more than their fair share.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or