By The Signal Editorial Board
What if the state told you that you weren’t allowed to take a shower and do your laundry on the same day?
It’s good to have choices, right? You could either take a shower and go to work, fresh as a daisy — but then you’d still have that ring around the collar.
Or, you could skip the shower, do the laundry and put your smelly ol’ self in some clean clothes. Hey, at least no one will invade your personal space.
It’s a lose-lose set of options, isn’t it?
Fortunately, despite rumors that gained steam on social media after a couple of errant media reports, the state of California is NOT imposing fines of $1,000 for residents who use more than 55 gallons of water per day.
But, as with many rumors, this one did start with a kernel of truth. That kernel is still cause for moderate, though not dire, concern.
Here’s what has really happened, according to the California Department of Water Resources, which evidently received enough calls, emails, letters and flame-ups on social media that it felt compelled to put out a “fast facts” sheet debunking the 55-gallon-per-day, $1,000 fine rumor.
In 2018, two California bills were passed — Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668 — that are designed to make water use efficiency a way of life for Californians. They set conservation targets that will, in fact, establish an overall efficiency standard of 55 gallons per person, per day, by January 2025, and then lower it further to 50 gallons per person, per day, by 2030.
“However, those targets are aggregated across the population in a service area and are not intended as enforceable standards for individuals,” the DWR fact sheet says.
In other words, there will be no jackbooted government thugs watching to make sure you don’t shower and do laundry on the same day. Further, these new laws do not set out fines for individuals. However, the DWR says, “The State Water Board may initiate enforcement actions in 2025 against urban water suppliers if they fail to meet the standards. The standards are scheduled to go into effect in 2023.”
In other words, even though individual enforcement is not part of the legislative package, the pressure will be on. If the SCV Water agency is getting fined by the state, we will all come under greater local pressure to comply.
The DWR says you should be able to do your part without having to make the draconian choice of a shower OR clean clothes. Yet, it’s clear the state is aiming high when it comes to conservation, and at some point it’s fair to ask: What is a reasonable standard for personal use? Is 50 gallons per day, per person, a reasonable goal?
The 55- and 50-gallon goals don’t apply to outdoor water use — there will be separate calculations for that — so we’re talking strictly about indoor uses like showers, laundry, dishwashing, brushing teeth, drinking water, water gun fights, etc.
If, collectively, the state’s “vision” is for people to skip these activities each day to meet the goal, we would find that excessive. While California’s cycles of drought are real, and the need to conserve is real, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that we should all have enough water available to both take a shower and wear clean clothes to work each day.
The state DWR, for now, is saying we can indeed do those things: “You are still encouraged to shower and wash your clothes in the Golden State, and even to wash children, pets and dishes. Though there are some easy ways you can take part in making conservation a way of life when using water at home — check out some water-saving tips and tricks at: saveourwater.com.”
OK. For now, we’ll check out the tips and tricks and see how we do. Our children, pets and coworkers will thank us for washing regularly. But we remain skeptical: In 2030, will individual enforcement become a reality rather than a scary social media rumor?
It shouldn’t. And we hope it won’t. Otherwise, the unwashed masses may need to rise up and object.