Calif. Shower Rules Could Add Up to Lakes

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – California on Wednesday announced the nation’s strictest low-flow standards for residential showerheads, as wildfires burned throughout the drought-parched state.
     The new standards could save enough water to serve 150,000 homes in the first year. The standards take effect July 2016. The California Energy Commission said the stringent water restrictions could save the state 38 billion gallons by 2026, when the showerheads are installed.
     The standards limit flows in residential showerheads to 2 gallons per minute, for all showerheads sold in California after July 1, 2016.
     Gov. Jerry Brown issued California’s first mandatory water restrictions in April and asked the Energy Commission to find ways to increase efficiency of household appliances. The current low-flow maximum for showerheads is 2.5 gallons per minute. By 2018 the limit will be 1.8 gallons per minute.
     Showers and faucets account for nearly 40 percent of indoor water use. Forcing new showerheads to be more efficient could save the state 2.4 billion gallons of water in the first year, the Energy Commission estimates. That comes to 76,620 acre-feet: enough to serve the needs of about 150,000 households per year.
     An acre-foot of water will cover an acre 1 foot deep. The estimated savings, then, could fill a 7,600-acre lake 10 feet deep, or ten 760-acre lakes. An acre is about as big as a football field.
     “We are hoping for the best, but planning for the worst in the face of the state’s historic drought. It is clear that we need to push the envelope to save water and energy while also ensuring it makes sense for consumers and the marketplace,” said Andrew McAllister, the Energy Commission’s lead on energy efficiency.
     The standards apply to fixed and handheld showerheads as well as horizontal sprayers.
     The Energy Commission also approved tougher limits on residential faucets. By next July all faucets sold in California must have maximum flows of 1.2 gallons per minute.
     Retailers and manufacturers have criticized the tougher faucet standards, which will replace the current limit of 2.2 gallons per minute.
     After Brown’s April water mandate, state regulators introduced several conservation programs for homeowners, including rebates for installing high-efficiency toilets and paying homeowners to replace their green lawns.
     Californians have responded remarkably well to Brown’s order, cutting water use in June by 27 percent compared with 2013.
     July was the state’s hottest on record. Water conservation numbers are expected to be released toward the end of August.
     Hundreds of square miles of forests continue to burn Thursday, with several large fires in Northern California out of control.

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