Southern California's biggest water wholesaler reacted to California's fifth year of drought by cutting in half the amount of water it supplies to 27 agencies serving farms, industry and millions of residents.

Those agencies will now come under increased pressure to ration water to their customers.The cutback was narrowly approved Monday by the 51-member Metropolitan Water District. It goes into effect April 1.

Agriculture will be hit hardest; its allotment will be cut 90 percent and the discount for agricultural water will be eliminated.

Water intended for people will be reduced 30 percent.

The agency had approved a 31 percent reduction in water deliveries last month and cut back further on Monday after being shown aerial photos of depleted reservoirs and graphs of miserable rainfall and snowpack statistics.

The directors acted as rain fell across much of California for the second time within a week. But the downpour gave little hope of relief.

"There is no question in our mind that the drought is going to continue," said Jay Malinowski, assistant chief of operations.

The district is a water wholesaler to 14 cities, 12 municipal water districts and one county water authority in a 5,200-square-mile area with a population of 15 million. The area runs from 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles to the Mexican border.

It is not the sole provider to all its member agencies, which also draw from wells, aquifers and the Colorado River.

But those agencies that receive water from the MWD and then provide it to customers are likely to deal with the cutback by imposing rationing.

Last Friday, Los Angeles imposed mandatory water rationing, as did Marin County in Northern California.

Riverside County citrus grower Janet Gless of Woodcrest said cuts in agricultural water threatened permanent crops such as trees.

"If you turn our water off now, a year from now you're not going to help us by turning it on," she said.