Living in California often reminds me of the famous episode in Seinfeld where the Soup Nazi, when George complains he didn’t get bread with his order, famously cries “No soup for you!”
The Soup Nazi tells George, “Bread. Two dollars extra.”
George complains, “Two dollars? But everyone in front of me got free bread.”
The Soup Nazi replies, “You want bread?”
“Yes, please,” says George.
“Three dollars!” says the Soup Nazi. Astonished George cries, “What?!?” and then, well, you know what happens. No soup for George.
California Prepares to Restrict Water Usage
That is what some Californians will be soon hearing under the state’s new proposed water laws. Simply replace the word soup with water.
Under proposed new rules from state water regulators, dozens of California cities could be required to impose permanent water conservation measures, even when the state is not in a drought. They regulations would take effect in about a year.
Water conservation is yet another issue that demonstrates the state’s heavy hand when it comes to public policy. Whether it’s public health or education or water conservation, you can bet California is going to set a one size fits all mandate for a state comprising 58 counties that are home to almost 40 million people, although that number has been on a steady decline the past three years.
Under the new rules, roughly 400 of California’s largest cities and water districts are required to come up with a water-use budget every year beginning Jan. 1, 2025. They could eventually face fines of up to $1,000 a day — and $10,000 a day during drought emergencies — for failing to set and meet appropriate targets.
The California Water Board website claims, “As part of the proposed regulation, urban retail water suppliers – not individual households or businesses – will be held to ‘urban water use objectives.’” The language is deceptive because while restrictions will not be directly imposed on households, new targets for water usage guide suppliers’ budgeted allotment.
The targets will vary by community. They are based on a formula made up of three main factors: a standard of 47 gallons per person per day for indoor water use — dropping to 42 gallons by 2030; an amount for outdoor residential use that varies by community depending on regional climates; and a standard for water loss due to rates of leaks in water system pipes.
Currently, the standard for household usage is 55 gallons per day.
Ask any family maintaining a moderate level of activity that requires daily dish, clothing, and body cleaning, to reduce their usage to 42 gallons per person per day and they will tell you it’s virtually impossible.
The state should get ready for a major battle if the proposals go through.
Some water agencies have been strongly opposed, saying Sacramento is beginning a new era of micromanaging how local communities use water.
Setting mandates from the state siphons off control and local decision making from smaller districts and water boards that may not face the same drought challenges as other parts of the large state.
For example, when the state mandated emergency water restrictions in 2022, Montecito, a small town in Santa Barbara county with its own district water board, was not facing any threat of drought whatsoever. Proper management allowed sufficient supply for residents to maintain business as usual, even while other districts were suffering. Still, they had to abide by the state restrictions.
“Why would the state want to get into this business?” said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. “Most of the urban water agencies are doing a pretty good job. They understand that droughts are getting worse and seem to be preparing for that in their own ways.”
It’s the question I often ask myself when Governor Newsom comes down with draconian measures. It goes against the very theory of governance set out by the Founding Fathers. People should be allowed to govern their own communities; the more local decision making, the better.
Not for a governor like Newsom. He comes from an elite class of rulers that believe they know what’s best for you, while at the same time, placing themselves above any rules they themselves put forth.
The latest water battle highlights the never-ending love hate relationship that comes with living in California. Many of us love the beauty of the natural resources she provides, yet hate the poor management she is under.
Jennifer Galardi is the politics and culture editor for 19FortyFive.com. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University and produces and hosts the podcast Connection with conversations that address health, culture, politics and policy. In a previous life, she wrote for publications in the health, fitness, and nutrition space. In addition, her pieces have been published in the Epoch Times and Pepperdine Policy Review. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.