By Ron Ringen

With all the rain and snow we’ve been blessed with the last two winters, one would think that the horrible drought we experienced for the five years prior is over. But, being Californian’s, we know, or certainly should know, that droughts occur here in California from time to time and there is little we can do about it except plan for it and provide water storage options to help us get through the drought.

But, that’s a subject for another day. Unfortunately, the thing that almost always lingers on after an adverse event such as a prolonged drought is government’s heavy hand in regulations and mandates that are hastily put together in an attempt to mitigate the drought and get us through it.

Such was the case with Gov. Jerry Brown and the California State Water Resources Control Board in April of 2015.

Actually, in January of 2014, Brown declared a statewide drought emergency and asked that the state residents voluntarily cut water consumption by 20 percent. During the 2014 and 2015 period, while Tuolumne Utilities District issued a requirement that ratepayers make a 50 percent cutback in water usage, 35 percent absolute or be subject to penalties.

Believe it or not, Twain Harte Community Services District, a wholesale water customer/associate of TUD, actually did conserve 50 percent of previous water use even though there is scant little yard landscaping to water, which the rest of the county could cut water use on and make the 35 percent cutback mandate without changing indoor, domestic use patterns much at all.

This conservation browned-out Tuolumne County and laid waste to millions of dollars of beautiful landscaping in the county. While Tuolumne County endured the stringent water restrictions, the rest of the state could only manage about a 9.7 percent water use cutback, which could be evidenced by green lawns and water running down the street gutters in many urban areas.

As a result, in April of 2015, Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent.

During this time period (2014 and 2015), the California legislature was doing anything close to sitting on its hands. On Jan. 1, 2014, Senate Bill 407 became law and its provisions/requirements apply to all California single-family residences built before Jan. 1, 1994.

My bet is that you’ve never heard of it, but that is the basis of this information piece. SB 407 requires that water conserving plumbing fixtures be installed throughout the home as a condition of building permits applied for after Jan. 1, 2014. SB 407 also requires that, as of Jan. 1, 2017, all single-family residences built prior to Jan. 1, 1994 must comply with these requirements (permit or no permit) and homeowners are required to install water saving fixtures if the current fixtures are out of compliance. As of Jan. 1, 2019, this law now affects commercial and multi-family properties.

Here are the rules:

If a toilet is greater than 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush), a 1.28 gpf toilet is required

If a shower head flows more than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute), a 2 gpm shower head is required

If a lavatory faucet flows more than 2.2 gpm, a 1.2 gpm faucet is required

If a kitchen sink faucet flows more than 2.2 gpm, a 1.8 gpm faucet is required

If a urinal (wall mounted) uses more than 1 gpf, a .125 gpf urinal is required

I can go on and on with other requirements and stipulations that this legislation has mandated, but the clincher as far as I’m concerned is that, if after Jan. 1, 2017, you are selling your home, the legislation requires you to replace non-compliant fixtures or disclose what fixtures are non-compliant.

What a burden, mentally and financially, on a normal homeowner who maybe knows little or nothing about plumbing.

Fortunately, there is some help available out there for homeowners. TUD is administering a program that is from a grant program obtained by the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District (T/C RCD) that was awarded through the Tuolumne-Stanislaus Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (T-Stan IRWMP) grant process.

This program offers certain rebate amounts for toilets replaced with water conserving models as well as proper shower heads and other items. Visit TUD at 18885 Nugget Blvd., Sonora (209-533-5536) for details of this helpful program.

Ron Ringen is a director on the Tuolumne Utilities District Board.