Water will be rationed in Southern California beginning next month as the region enters its fifth year of drought.

The Metropolitan Water District wants farmers to cut back water usage by 30 percent and residential and industrial consumers 10 percent.The measure approved this week by the district's 51-member board steps up reductions that were scheduled to begin March 1.

"This drought is so bad that we might be back with greater cuts in the future," said district general manager Carl Boronkay.

The move is the third stage of a five-stage plan to decrease water delivery to agencies serving 15 million customers in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura and Orange counties.

Less than 1 million acre-feet of water now is available in the district's reservoirs. The normal reserve is more than 3 million acre-feet.

One acre-foot is 326,000 gallons. Two families use an acre-foot per year.

Under Stage 3 rationing, agencies will receive water based on 1989 usage. Agencies that take more will have to pay triple for extra water, Boronkay said. The agencies determine how to pass on those costs to consumers.