State lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that will mandate indoor residential water conservation. The Senate recently voted 28–9 on SB 1157 to lower indoor water usage as follows:
- Effective January 1, 2025 and until January 1, 2030, the standard for indoor residential water use will be 47 gallons per capita daily.
- Effective January 1, 2030, the standard will be 42 gallons per capita daily.
“This kind of water policy is what we like to call raging common sense. As we stare down potentially endless, worsening cycles of drought in California,our water policy must match and support efforts to conserve,” said Senator Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s author.
While Hertzberg and other lawmakers applauded the conservation efforts, water districts in charge of enforcing the regulation say the bill would increase costs of operation and management—especially since water districts currently don’t keep track of indoor and outdoor water use, according to Interim General Manager of Yorba Linda Water District Doug Davert. Davert says that if homeowners don’t abide by the lower water usage rules, the cost of enforcement will likely fall onto water districts. The only way to determine water consumption per household and per person is to find out how many people are in each household. “How much prying will we have to do? The financial impacts of the bill haven’t yet been concluded, but I expect the impact to be high,” Davert added.
Fines Go to the Owner, Not the Offending Renter
The legislation calls for fines to property owners but not water-guzzling renters, presumably even if each rental unit is separately metered. In 2020, California introduced water use fines of $1,000 per day, but only rarely fined anyone. As the drought drags on and usage allowances decrease, however, the consequences of SB 1157 may become more problematic for owners
of multi-unit rental properties with only a single water meter because there’s no way to determine which renter is overusing. Owners of such buildings have always paid the water bill, but when a unit is separately metered, it is certainly not the owner who should be penalized for the renter’s wasteful habits.
The new legislation has passed the State Senate, but may see further amendments in the Assembly. We can hope that the amendment process will address the unfairness of the bill as currently written.
Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News. For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at www.smallprop.org or call (415) 647-2419.