Petaluma's City Council late Monday night recommended a no vote on the county Water Agency's annual budget, objecting that the agency's pressure to conserve water led to a rate hike.

The Cotati City Council voted no earlier this month and the Santa Rosa council takes up the issue tonight.

Cities' recommendations on the Water Agency budget are only advisory, but are indicative of the frustration felt by water customers as rates continue to rise sharply after residents conserved water last year.

Petaluma representatives said they believe the water agency could do more to reduce its own internal costs and therefore reduce the rate increase that is passed onto ratepayers.

The Water Agency is proposing an 8.6 percent increase for water deliveries, or $614 an acre-foot, about 326,000 gallons. Cities used 15 percent less last year, reducing the Water Agency's revenues by $4.5 million.

Petaluma allocated $4.875 million for water in 2009-10.

Also of concern for Petaluma council members was the $1.2 cost of the Petaluma Aqueduct relocation project, which entails moving the Kastania pipeline south of Petaluma to accommodate Caltrans' widening of Highway 101 into Marin County.

Petaluma City Council members suggested the Marin Municipal Water District bear more costs since it originally built and benefits the most from the pipeline.

The Water Agency board is scheduled to consider its budget and proposed water rates for the fiscal year 2010-11 on April 20.