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.

Bill 1668, which passed in the Assembly and was signed into law by Brown, goes even further, severely limiting the amount of water Californians can use:

The bill, until January 1, 2025, would establish 55 gallons per capita daily as the standard for indoor residential water use, beginning January 1, 2025, would establish the greater of 52.5 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use, and beginning January 1, 2030, would establish the greater of 50 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use. The bill would impose civil liability for a violation of an order or regulation issued pursuant to these provisions, as specified.

Note that this language gives the State Water Resources Control Board—appointed by the governnor—to increase the limits on residential water usage at their discretion over the next 12 years.

Urban water suppliers will monitor water usage by California residents, with the law stipulating that they "shall use satellite imagery, site visits, or other best available technology to develop an accurate estimate of landscaped areas." Note the use of the word "shall," which means they must do it.

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
  • A 10-minute shower uses 50 gallons
  • Washing clothes takes 25-40 gallons of water, depending on the machine's efficiency
  • Toilets normally use 1.6 gallons per flush (if you're using a low-flow model)
  • Shaving, brushing your teeth, and washing your face take a gallon each

As you can see, it's not difficult to use 55 gallons of water in the course of a normal day. California residents who opt for a shower will only be left with enough water to brush their teeth and perhaps flush the toilet a couple of times before they run afoul of the new state law.

Water providers face hefty fines if they're found to be in violation of the law:

1) If the violation occurs in a critically dry year immediately preceded by two or more consecutive below normal, dry, or critically dry years or during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency under the California Emergency Services Act (Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 8550) of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code) based on drought conditions,  ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each day in which the violation occurs.

(2) For all violations other than those described in paragraph (1), one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each day in which the violation occurs.

Wealthy California residents, however, got a special dispensation from the legislature. There are to be special provisions for swimming pools, spas, "and other water features" that use a lot of water.

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for City-Journal in 2016, explained the genesis of the California water crisis, writing that Governor Jerry Brown and other Democratic leaders opposed state and federal water projects in the 1970s, leaving "no margin for error in a state now home to 40 million people."

"Those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn," he said.

Hanson noted at National Review last year that "Over some 50 consecutive months of drought, California did not start work on a single major reservoir — though many had long ago been planned and designed." Instead, he said, "tens of millions of acre-feet of precious runoff water last year were simply let out to the ocean" due to environmental diversions.

Hanson warned lawmakers to "fix premodern problems before dreaming about postmodern solutions."

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, author of AB 1668, dismissed warnings about the new water rules as "pure fiction." She told the Sacramento Bee, "I wish people would stop scaring people with this sort of thing."

But unfortunately, instead of making adequate preparations for an eventual water crisis, lawmakers dropped the ball, focusing instead on pet projects like a high-speed rail and virtue-signaling sanctuary city policies. Now California residents are paying the price for their incompetence.

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