What is the real story behind California’s 55 gallons of water per day, per person? California Globe recently summarized some of the state Legislature’s most unforgettable moments in 2019, including some water laws.
California voters have approved more than $30 Billion in Water Bonds which has provided no new water storage, and water rationing on the horizon.
California Globe spoke to noted water expert Kristi Diener for an update on this complicated matter:
In water year 2019, which spanned from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019, an amount of water equal to a year’s supply for 275 million people flowed under the Golden Gate Bridge and out to the Pacific Ocean. Rather than acting to build new, major, reservoir storage to capture all we can when Mother Nature brings us bountiful water for free, California continuously obstructs, and has even used the courts to block putting dam shovels in the ground. In fact, lawmakers recently enacted their own expensive and ineffective solution instead.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), authored two new mandatory water rationing bills. Senate Bill 606, and Assembly Bill 1668, were easily passed along party lines, signed into law, and will gradually keep ratcheting indoor water use down over the next 10 years, until it reaches 50 gallons per person per day. Unlike expanded reservoirs that capture additional new water to meet the current and future water needs of a growing population, Californians will adapt to living water poor. The cost of the new regulatory body, and added level of bureaucracy necessary to enforce these rationing laws, will be passed on to taxpayers. Water rates will continue to rise, and the “use less, pay more” scenario will increase. What’s worse is the actual water savings will be insignificant.
Kristi also addressed in detail the 55 gallon per day limitation per person in household water use, after an astounding KTLA report explaining why a single person living alone would not be able to take a shower and do a load of laundry without going over the limit and being fined $1,000 for each offense.
Kristi Diener: “I love that this getting media attention, but the anchor doesn’t have the facts exactly correct. I wrote about this recently.”
“There have been a lot of questions re the 55-gallon per person/per day, indoor water-usage legislation (SB 606 and AB 1668), like how will they monitor indoor water usage or the number of people living in a household? I will first tell you, as much as is known right now, there is an equal amount of unknown. Detailed plans are being developed over time (on the fly) based on a loose outline called the ‘Primer’ which the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Board prepared to summarize the authorities, requirements, and schedules included in the new legislation. The State Water Board had until January 1, 2020 to submit their recommendations for implementation to the Governor. These will only be guidelines and methodologies. The bulk of the legislation will be dropped on urban and agricultural water suppliers to figure out or face fines.
Right now there is no way to monitor individual indoor usage, nor is there a way to separate indoor watering from outdoor watering. The ‘standard’ for indoor use has been set at 55-gallon per person per day, eventually decreasing to 52.5 gallons in 2025, and 50 gallons per person per day by 2030. The first standard will be adopted no later than June 2022.
A yet to be determined formula will also dictate outdoor watering usage. This will be calculated by climate and region, how much land one has to irrigate, and will have provisions for pools, spas, fountains, water features, etc. It is unknown how all this will be completed by suppliers for each water account, how it will be amended for new residential or commercial development, or adjusted for all the variables-like changes in the number of members living in a household, or if a family puts in a pool. Dedicated outdoor watering meters have been suggested, which would also provide an indoor number if an overall usage meter is already in place. A water supplier will also have to guesstimate how much water they think they lose with leaks or when pipes break.
The water agency has to create a water budget that combines all usage across their entire service area, and then determine how they are going to meet this budget. If they go over, they may have to give rebates for tearing out lawns, credits for low-flow fixtures, raise water rates, charge for irrigation meter installation, or impose fines for using too much. How they will implement the water budget has not been determined, but they will be subject to monthly reporting requirements and fined $1000 per day when they go over. If they exceed the budget in a dry year, the fine is $10,000 every day they go over. There will also be a whole new level of bureaucracy created with a new ‘governing body’ to oversee water suppliers, and an enforcement arm.
The new laws ramp up over time. Suppliers have to have water use caps for indoor and outdoor watering by the end of 2022. The new water budgets will be fully enforced with penalties beginning November 2023.
Trying to determine the ultimate objective here is not clear to me. I can definitely see that we are going to be paying more for water because water suppliers will pass costs and fines on to users. The paperwork created for suppliers will mean added bodies to their payrolls. Creating a new governing body will also incur expenses/taxes.
I don’t fully understand how this ‘Makes Water Conservation a Way of Life?’ If a supplier makes the first water budget based on last year’s budget, round one’s target shouldn’t be too tough to hit, although ratcheting that number down will progressively get harder. I am wondering what is in between the lines? Could the goal be to find out exactly how much a supplier can do without, so that water right can be reduced and redirected? That’s when water rationing enforcement would hurt most. They already passed the laws, so we’ll have to wait to see what’s really in them.”
UPDATE 1/3/2020: The KTLA video was taken down from youtube. You can view it here on Facebook.