California Limits Daily Personal Water Use to 55 Gallons – Kind Of

Jun 20, 2018 at 9:00am

By Matt Weiser, Water Deeply

California has always been America’s leader on environmental policy, and water is no exception. So it was hardly surprising when the state made headlines across the nation in early June with a new policy on residential water use: Californians will be limited to 55 gallons per person per day for their indoor water needs.

The rule is apparently the first of its kind in the nation. But lost in the excitement is the fact that water agencies have no way to measure how much water their customers use indoors. Homes have only one water meter, and it provides no information about where water is used or for what purpose.

In reality, it turns out, the 55-gallon limit is not a limit at all. It is merely an aspirational target meant to motivate customers to conserve.

“The statewide indoor water use standard is not enforceable on individual water users,” said Dave Bolland, director of state regulatory relations at the Association of California Water Agencies. “There is no provision [in the law] that requires individual households to meet a specific water use target.”

The pair of new laws that enacted the 55-gallon target, Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606, set it as a goal that water utilities must meet by averaging across all their customers. Water agencies must create a “water budget,” aggregated across their entire service area, that includes indoor water consumption, water applied for landscape irrigation, commercial and industrial use and water lost due to system leakage.

The overarching goal is to create a culture of permanent water conservation, and to sustain the progress made by emergency measures during California’s five-year drought.

But even in the new aggregated water budgets, utilities have no way to know for sure how much total water is being used indoors by their customers. They’ll be guessing.

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