New California Laws Restrict Residential Water Use

Published August 10, 2018

Californians accustomed to showering and doing laundry on the same day may have to change their ways, under new laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June.

The state’s new water-efficiency standards apply to water districts, but the reductions will have a direct effect on residential customers. In 2022, the new indoor water standard will be 55 gallons per person per day, falling to 50 gallons per person by 2030.

CBS–13 in Sacramento calculates an eight-minute shower uses about 17 gallons of water, a load of laundry can require 40 gallons, and a bathtub can hold 80 to 100 gallons of water, making it difficult to stay within the law and both shower and wash clothes on the same day. The law also rations water for outdoor uses such as washing cars and watering lawns.

‘Preparations for Climate Change’

The new measures are being imposed “so that everyone in California is at least integrating efficiency into our preparations for climate change,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board (WRCB), told the press.

Retrofitting homes with water-efficient appliances that could reduce use to 35 gallons per day per person is one of the ways local water officials could promote compliance, the WRCB says.

Water districts are now required to perform stress tests of their water supply and curb losses due to leaks. There is evidence the state’s deteriorating infrastructure is contributing to the water woes. The California Department of Water Resources estimates municipal water systems lose 228 billion gallons a year through leaking pipes in the state’s aging water distribution system.

Laws limiting household water use to combat water shortages purportedly caused by climate change may prove ineffective if municipalities and water districts don’t fix their leaking pipes and infrastructure.

Expects Exodus

Although the law imposes fines on water districts, not individual households, for failing to comply with the new standards, water districts are free to pass along the costs of the fines to customers in the form of higher bills, says Jay Lehr, director of science policy at the Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News. That’s exactly what they will do, Lehr says.

“California’s environmental regulations long ago left the realm of reasoned, intelligent efforts to protect the citizens and their environment,” said Lehr. “This new law is designed to strong-arm water suppliers into raising water prices and implement expensive and often ineffective water-use reduction programs.

“The costs of these questionable programs will be passed on to consumers,” Lehr said. “The California legislature appears eager to chase its citizens out of the state through higher taxes, expensive energy restrictions, and now harmful water restrictions.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.