A new emphasis on water conservation is on the horizon in 2014 with the implementation of Senate Bill 407 which was signed into law in 2009 but goes into effect Jan. 1 of next year.
Enacted as a way to help the state meet its goal of reducing water usage by 20 percent by 2020, supporters of the bill think it will also help consumers save money over the long run as water becomes more expensive.
While only affecting residential and commercial property built on or before Jan. 1, 1994, it is expected to impact an estimated 80 percent of the 11 million single family homes and apartments buildings in California.
According to the law, beginning on Jan. 1, all building alterations or improvements to single-family homes require the installation of water-conserving plumbing fixtures as a condition for issuance of a certificate of final completion and occupancy or final permit approval by the local building department. That includes toilets, shower heads and faucets.
In addition, as of Jan. 1, water-conserving plumbing fixtures also have to be installed in all multifamily residential and commercial property when there are 1) building additions that would increase the floor area of a space in a building by more than 10 percent; 2) for building alterations or improvements in which the total construction cost is estimated in the building permit to be greater than $150,000; 3) and for any alterations or improvements to a room in a building that requires a building permit and that room contains noncompliant plumbing fixtures.
By Jan. 1, 2017, all noncompliant plumbing fixtures in any single-family residential home must be replaced with water-conserving plumbing fixtures.
By Jan. 1, 2019, all noncompliant plumbing fixtures in multifamily residential and commercial property must be replaced with water-conserving plumbing fixtures.
Noncompliant fixtures include any toilet that uses more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush; any urinal that uses more than one gallon per flush; any showerhead that has a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons per minute; and any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons per minute.
The bill would also require that on or after Jan. 1, 2017, the sale or transfer of any single-family residential, multifamily, or commercial property include a written disclosure of the requirement to replace any plumbing fixtures and whether the property includes noncompliant plumbing. However the bill does allow the postponement of these requirements for up to one year for any building that has a demolition permit.
The bill also permits a city, county or retail water supplier to enact a local ordinance or policy that promotes compliance with the bill or one that would result in even greater water savings.
Implementation of the law comes with some uncertainty, however, because of how different jurisdictions may interpret what improvements or repairs trigger the replacement requirements.
John Brownless, building official for the city of Placerville, said the city will probably abide by a legislative analysis prepared by an organization called California Building Officials.
Based on their analysis, as of Jan. 1, 2014, the law would require non-compliant plumbing fixtures be replaced with water-conserving fixtures when a property is undergoing alterations or improvements. However construction related to repairs or maintenance of the structure would not be considered an alteration or improvement. Using this interpretation, only additions, alterations and improvements requiring a permit would trigger SB 407. Things that would not trigger it include electrical service change out; HVAC change out; re-roofing; sewer line replacement; siding or stucco; site work such as retaining walls, fences, walk ways, etc; water heater replacement; window replacement, or other repairs as determined by a building official.
Brownless said based on this analysis, the city would not require people to comply with SB 407 for most repair permits.
The County of El Dorado is taking a different approach. Tom Burnette, who is the deputy director/building official for Development Services, said they are working with county building officials to put together a self-certifying program so if someone does undertake an alteration or addition, they fill out a form attesting they have met the requirements of the law, thus shifting enforcement to them.
“I think this is the wrong way to save water,” Burnette added. “Incentives work better. Most people don’t let their water run. They conserve it because of its cost. The downside of all this, is people’s bills will go up.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.