The Santa Cruz City Council is expected Tuesday to appoint nominees to a new water supply committee and consider taking a step toward enacting mandatory water rationing in response to an ongoing statewide drought.

The council's 7 p.m. meeting will be dedicated to weighing a recommendation from city water commissioners to increase the current water shortage alert from voluntary cutbacks of 5 percent to mandatory curtailment of up to 25 percent during the next several months.

The Stage 3 Water Emergency would allow water officials to establish consumption targets for households, businesses and other customers, as well as set penalty rates for exceeding those limits. The Water Department needs time to hire additional staff, increase public communication and take other steps to prepare for a level of cuts unseen since 1990.

Because the state's water code requires the noticing of a public hearing to take such measures, the council cannot make a decision Tuesday. However, the council could schedule a special meeting for Feb. 18 or take up the matter during its next regular meeting Feb. 25.