California officials launched two initiatives Wednesday to boost residential water conservation: The nation's toughest water efficiency standards for showerheads and a $30 million rebate program to rip out grass lawns and replace old toilets.
The California Energy Commission voted to require showerheads sold at stores in the state to spray less water than current models following similar moves for toilets, faucets and urinals.
The initiatives came four months after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered sweeping water-saving measures in response to the state's four-year drought.
Showerheads sold at stores will be limited to spraying 1.8 gallons a minute – the nation's strictest limits – starting in July 2018.
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It will be phased in with a 2 gallons a minute standard starting next July, as is already required for all new construction in the state. Retrofitting of existing building will not be required.
"These new high-efficiency models have the same feel as old-style showerheads, but without the water waste,'' Tracy Quinn, a Natural Resources Defense Council policy analyst, said in a news release.
In addition, the state Department of Water Resources is providing enough funding to offer 60,000 residents a $100 rebate to replace an outdated toilet and up to $2,000 to replace grass lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping.
Other standards approved by the energy commission earlier this year take effect in January. Urinals can't flush more than an eighth of a gallon, down from half a gallon.
All faucets were previously allowed to pour 2.2 gallons a minute: The updated standards lower that to 1.2 gallons for home bathrooms, 1.8 gallons for kitchens and a half-gallon for public bathrooms.
However, the energy commission voted Wednesday to push back water-efficiency standards it approved for residential faucets by six months after manufacturers complained it wasn't feasible.
Together, the tougher appliance standards are expected to eventually save 138 billion gallons of water a year, according to energy commission estimates.