New law bans shower, laundry on same day

Within four years, Californians who want to do their laundry on any given day effectively will be forced to sacrifice taking a shower, thanks to two laws signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Beginning in the year 2022, a limit of 55 gallons per person daily will be the standard for indoor residential water use in the Golden State, notes the Federalist.

The two bills, SB 606 and AB 1668, require cities, water districts and large agricultural water districts to set strict annual water budgets.

The law does not impose fines on individual Californians.

But agencies that violate the per-capita restrictions will have to pay a fine of $1,000 per day during normal seasons and $10,000 per day if “the violation occurs in a critically dry year immediately preceded by two or more consecutive below normal, dry, or critically dry years.”

The fines for agencies failing to meet the water targets can begin in 2027.

The 55-gallon limit per person will be reduced even further within three years, dropping to 52.5 gallons per capita in 2025 and 50 gallons in 2030.

By some estimates, an average load of laundry uses about 40 gallons of water, while an eight-minute shower uses about 17 gallons.

The government apparently will employ spying to ensure compliance.

The Federalist reported the law requires utility providers to report on violators, and urban retail water suppliers “shall use satellite imagery, site visits, or other best available technology to develop an accurate estimate of landscaped areas.”

Last year, according to the state water board, urban Californians used an average of 90 gallons of water per person per day for indoor and outdoor use combine.

The Mercury News of San Jose said an amount for residential outdoor has yet to be established, and it will vary, depending on regional climates.

But the law clearly states there will be “no provisions for swimming pools, spas, and other water features.”

Brown declared an end to California’s historic five-year drought last year, but he explained the new laws are in “preparation for the next drought and our changing environment.”

“We have efficiency goals for energy and cars – and now we have them for water,” he said.

The Mercury News said the laws are a response to complaints from some water agencies about the water targets the Brown administration put in place during the drought. The agencies said the targets were too inflexible and didn’t take into account local water supplies, population growth and other factors.

The paper said supporters of the law included business groups such as the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and water agencies such as the Contra Costa Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Environmentalists supporting the laws included the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Mercury News reported.

Tracy Quinn, water conservation director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the new laws “are definitely a step in the right direction.”

“The framework strikes the right balance between local control and necessary state oversight,” Quinn said.

Sierra Club California, however, said the rules don’t go far enough, pointing to a compromise that allowed cities and water districts to obtain 15 percent credit on their water-use totals if they produce certain types of recycled water.

Some of the state’s major water agencies opposed the new measures, arguing Sacramento shouldn’t be dictating rules to local governments, the Mercury News said.

Among the opponents were the Alameda County Water District, Kern County Water Agency, San Diego County Water Authority and the Zone 7 Water Agency in Livermore.

An opponent of the legislation, Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, explained that every local water agency “supports conservation and has a responsibility to make sure its water users use water efficiently.”

The opposition, he said, was “never about whether we should be pursuing conservation. It was about how.”

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