Law Mandates Water-conserving Plumbing Fixtures
Originally appeared in Bay Area News Group publications on February 17, 2017
All the water that will ever be is, right now.
– National Geographic
The latest aspects of a state law (State Senate Bill 407 – SB 407) impacting single-family homes took effect January 1, 2017. It requires all owners of homes built on or before January 1, 1994, not just those selling, to install water-conserving plumbing fixtures (WCP). SB 407 also necessitates noncompliant plumbing fixtures in multifamily and commercial buildings to be replaced with water-conserving ones on or before January 1, 2019. San Francisco’s ordinance moved up the effective date for commercial properties to be in compliance to January 1, 2017.
What needs replacement?
Existing plumbing fixtures with the following standards must be switched:
- 1) Toilets manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush (GPF)
- 2) Interior faucets manufactured to use more than 2.2 gallons per minute (GPM)
- 3) Showerheads manufactured to use more than 2.5 GPM
- 4) Urinals manufactured to use more than 1.0 GPM
New fixture specifications
Per a City of Oakland Planning and Building Department notice, “new water-conserving plumbing fixtures must meet the following:
- 1) New toilets must use no more water than 1.28 GPF.
- 2) New residential lavatory faucets must emit no more water than 1.5 GPM. The maximum flow rate of lavatory faucets installed…outside of dwellings or sleeping units in residential buildings shall not exceed 0.5 GPM.
- 3) New metering faucets in residential buildings must emit no more water than 0.25 gallons per cycle.
- 4) New kitchen faucets must emit no more water than 1.8 GPM.
- 5) New showerheads must emit no more water than 2.0 GPM.
- 6) New urinals must use no more water than 0.5 GPF.”
More details than enumerated above can be found on the Oakland notice.
Despite our above-average rain year, it is essential that conserving water continues to be a way of life for all Californians. These new requirements, clearly consistent with our state’s pressing need to save water, will, nonetheless, initially cause much head-scratching amongst homeowners who are selling and their agents.
Those who have noncompliant plumbing fixtures do not have to fear middle-of-the night checks by the plumbing police. All the same, the new legislation does require three disclosures before a home is sold. A competent real estate licensee will be familiar with them.
How will sellers identify noncompliant fixtures?
With toilets, it is easy to discover gallons per flush. Low-flush toilets have a number, e.g., 1.6 GPF, on the porcelain behind the seat. If there is no GPF number, it is unlikely the toilet is water-efficient. I have not been able to find information on how a homeowner can identify the efficacy of existing bathroom faucets, showerheads and kitchen faucets. Searching online for fixture specifications might be useful, but there are so many manufacturers and models constantly changing, this may not be worth the time and effort.
Even if you come up with a measuring system, ascertaining accurate flow rates can be tricky for a homeowner. This is complicated by the fact that the law defines compliance based on whether the plumbing fixture is manufactured to use a certain amount of water, not on how much it uses per your determinations. Sellers need to be especially cautious about declaring on disclosures that certain existing fixtures in the home are compliant. If a buyer later finds that statement inaccurate, it could lead to legal problems for the seller. Indicating that you do not know is much safer than providing possibly incorrect specifics on water efficiency. Knowledgeable agents will counsel you to be cautious about this.
As the saying goes, “water is life.” We all need to do our best to conserve. Even if you are not selling your home, as time goes by, it makes sense to upgrade plumbing fixtures in line with the law.