Mired in an extreme drought, California lawmakers on Thursday made the initial steps toward lowering the amount of water people use in their homes, a move that won't be enforced on individual customers but could lead to local water agencies exploring avenues to incentivize or assist in reducing water usage.
California's current standard for residential indoor water use is 55 gallons per person per day. The rule doesn't apply to customers, meaning regulators don't write tickets to people for using more water than they are allowed. Instead, the state requires water agencies to meet that standard across all of its customers.
Lawmakers cited a study by state regulators that found the median indoor residential water use in California was 48 gallons (181 liters) per person per day. They recommended state lawmakers lower the standard to encourage more conservation as droughts become more frequent and more severe because of climate change.
The California Senate voted 28-9 on Thursday to lower the standard to 47 gallons per person per day starting in 2025; and 42 gallons per person per day beginning in 2030. The bill has not yet passed the Assembly, meaning it is still likely months away from potentially becoming law. Earlier this year Governor Gavin Newsom asked residents to reduce water usage by 15 percent.
“This really is about the next generation. This really is about your grandchildren,” said Sen. Robert Hertzberg, a Democrat who authored the bill.
The Central Valley is in the middle of a severe drought just a few years after record rain and snowfall filled reservoirs to capacity. Scientists say this boom-and-bust cycle is driven by climate change that will be marked by longer, more severe droughts. A study from earlier this year found that California was in the middle of a megadrought that is now the driest in at least 1,200 years.