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More miserly water usage is mandated by state law
water waste

The state up until this week wanted cities to reduce daily per capita water consumption to 179 gallons by 2020.

Sacramento changed the rules Thursday.

Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation limiting indoor per capita water use to 55 gallons by 2022 and 50 gallons by 2027.

How that will be enforced and calculated against new outdoor water consumption standards that state agencies have been tasked with establishing has yet to be determined.

Manteca, as an example, had a 139 gallon per capita per day water use in 2015. That was 40 gallons lower than the previous target for 2020 and considerably lower than city water use per capita in Manteca between 1996 and 2005 when it averaged 223 gallons per resident.

Given city officials have put outdoor water use for grass and landscaping at between 50 and 60 percent of overall consumption during the course of a year, Manteca residents are likely consuming between 60 and 70 gallons for inside water use currently over the course of a year.

Whatever targets state agencies devise will need to take into account commercial, school and municipal uses to determine final targets.

The consumption of water in Manteca had dropped initially due to the impacts of the installation of high efficiency toilets and washing machines. Both uses along with bathing and showering are the biggest inside uses of water in Manteca.

But what really accelerated the drop in water were state mandates to reduce consumption due to the ongoing five-year ground.

Ironically some segments of Southern California already beat overall per capita use targets for 2027 without separating indoor and outside use. State reports show East Los Angeles — who have minimal yards — used 42 gallons per capita on a daily basis in 2014. That said  Palm Springs consumed an astonishing 736 gallons per day and an upscale area of North San Diego 580 gallons a day.

On Thursday, Brown signed the pair of bills that will set permanent targets for both indoor and outdoor water consumption. They place the onus for compliance with cities and water districts that provide clean drinking water to residents. 

“In preparation for the next drought and our changing environment, we must use our precious resources wisely,” Brown said in a statement. “We have efficiency goals for energy and cars – and now we have them for water.”

Senate Bill 606, authorized by Van Nuys Democrat Robert Herrzberg, and Assembly Bill 1668, authored by Glendale Democrat Laura Friedman — both of whom represent districts in water-starved Southern California — will now require water districts and municipal providers to set annual water budgets and face a fine of up to $1,000 every day they don't meet them. 

During water emergencies those penalties could extend to $10,000 a day.

While Brown declared the historic drought officially over last year, the new bills are being viewed as a way to manage resources and set a statewide conservation goal that will prolong the period of time until the next drought hits.

During the height of the drought cities like Manteca and Lathrop were required to meet mandatory reductions in overall water usage — cuts by as much as 25 percent over a baseline year established by the Department of Water Resources — and were required to report their findings every month. 

The state also imposed its strictest guidelines for outdoor watering in decades — limiting outdoor watering in some jurisdictions to only one day a week, and prompting municipalities to actively police water wasters. 

Residents in the area were encouraged to seek drought-restricted landscaping options. 

Under the new bills, water districts and municipalities will have until 2022 to come up with water budgets, and sets the daily indoor limit on personal water use to 55 gallons per day, per person. The bills call for that daily limit to shrink to 50 gallons by 2027. Data from the State Water Resources shows that the average California resident uses 90 gallons of water per day in 2017, which was a drop from the nearly 110 gallons of water used per day in 2013 — the year established as the baseline for conservation purposes.

The standards for outdoor water usage, which would be set by the DWR and the SWRCB, would be revealed after studies conducted sometime in 2021.