Californians May Have to Choose Between Showers and Laundry with New 55-Gallon Water Limit

Late last week California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills aimed at conserving water in the drought-stricken state. Unfortunately for California residents, the draconian measures will severely curtail their ability to complete acts of daily living that people in the rest of the U.S. take for granted—things like laundry, showers, and bathing.

On the Senate side, Bill 606 requires the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt “long-term standards for the efficient use of water and would establish specified standards for per capita daily indoor residential water use” in order to comply with another state law that requires California to reduce its per capita water usage by 20 percent by the year 2020.

The board would have authority over all water suppliers, imposing onerous reporting requirements on them to ensure they’re complying with the 20 percent reduction mandate, and imposing fines if they don’t.

Overall, Californians will have to use less water in a state that has been plagued by persistent droughts, and this is not a new concept to locals. Residents had to slash water use during a historic five-year drought that ended in April 2017. Water agencies will be encouraged to have their customers limit indoor water use to an average of 55 gallons a day per person, declining to 50 gallons by 2030.

Jim Metropulos, legislative director for California State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) who authored 1668, told that ,the legislation sets water efficiency goals for water districts and municipalities on the territorial level, but it does not regulate what individual Californians or businesses can and can’t do:

“There is nothing in this bill to target households or companies. Water use objectives are on territory-level of a water agency. There is nothing regulating the time a person may shower or when they may or may not do laundry.” (The “penalty of up to $1,000 per day” for excessive water use referenced in many alarmist articles on this subject applies to “urban retail water suppliers,” not to individual customers.)

The legislation instead will prompt water agencies to set methods and goals for reducing per capita water use over time, starting in 2022. In a statement released by Brown’s office, the governor said the legislation is meant to brace the state for the next water shortage:

“In preparation for the next drought and our changing environment, we must use our precious resources wisely. We have efficiency goals for energy and cars – and now we have them for water,” said Governor Brown.

SB 606 and AB 1668 establish guidelines for efficient water use and a framework for the implementation and oversight of the new standards, which must be in place by 2022. The two bills strengthen the state’s water resiliency in the face of future droughts with provisions that include:

  • Establishing an indoor, per person water use goal of 55 gallons per day until 2025, 52.5 gallons from 2025 to 2030 and 50 gallons beginning in 2030.
  • Creating incentives for water suppliers to recycle water.
  • Requiring both urban and agricultural water suppliers to set annual water budgets and prepare for drought.

There are actually two new California laws that set water conservation restrictions for water agencies and municipalities but not for individuals. By Thursday, The Sacramento Bee and the fact-checking site Snopes had knocked down the bogus claim, but at that point it had become the talk of California Twitter.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. According to the USGS website:

A bath uses around 36 gallons of water