PHCC of California Expresses Concerns Over New Residential Water Standards

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With California entering the fourth year of record drought conditions, Governor Jerry Brown issued  an Executive Order including mass restrictions on water useage across the state.  This Order indicates sweeping cuts across residential, commercial and agricultural lines, and residential plumbing fixtures are again targeted for lower water consumption.

It is widely regarded in California that 80% of water is used for agricultural purposes, and the remaining 20% is split between homes, business and governments.  Of that 20%, only an estimated 6% is used for residential services.

PHCC of California Past President Mike Barker stated that laws being handed down regarding low flow products are not taking into account the current piping infrastructures and systems.  Based in Anaheim, and a certified Green Plumber since 2007, Barker said that prior to 1990, most mainline drain stoppages were found outside the home.  When the first wave of low flow toilets restricting water usage occurred, Barker & Son’s plumbing calls began relating to stoppages within the structure due to insufficient water flow.  He states that low flow fixtures are a plumbers dream, and a homeowner’s nightmare, and anticipates much more drain work in the future.

Barker became a Green Plumber tm because of the tremendous growth in Southern California, however, he noted that consumers were resistant due to what they saw as the ‘expense’ of alternate green systems.  Barker stated that we are at the tip of the conservation iceberg, and the ‘Green Movement‘ will be motivated by green moving out of the consumer’s wallet – with rising water bills and fines for overuse outweighing the costs of alternative green systems.  More studies need to be done on current infrastructures to match low flow products with adequately sized piping systems.

PHCC of California Code Chair and owner of Pace Setter Plumbing, Inc. Arnie Rodio shares these concerns, specifically with #16 of  Governor Brown’s  Executive Order:  The California Energy Commission shall adopt emergency regulations establishing standards that improve the efficiency of water appliances including toilets, urinals, and faucets available for sale and installation in new and existing buildings.

Rodio says, ‘These increasingly tight water standards for toilets, showers, faucets and sinks fail to take into consideration the following:

Reducing water flow in toilets means treatment plants require additional water to process the sewage.  Sewer mains are plugging due to insufficient water moving the waste product, requiring hydro jetting (which uses tons of water) to flush the lines.  Cutting back on the cleaning ability of urinals and failing to adequately dilute urine leads to uric acid crystallization, stoppages, and rotting of cast iron waste lines.  Lower flow shower heads means individuals will take longer showers in order to ‘get clean’.

He stated that residential and ornamental lawns in business and government utilize three times the water that consumers use in their daily activities.  He suggested sweeping restrictions on any landscaping requiring over ¼ gallon a day, and the elimination of all grass lawns.

Rodio sits on the code committee of the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and notes that IAPMO has been a leader in water conservation and ahead of the curve, creating the Green Plumbing Code, and incorporating and adopting code in relation to rain water catchment, reclaimed water and grey water systems and other code provisions that provide for safe and reliable water conservation.

Executive Vice President Tracy Threlfall notes, ’it is important for residential water customers to be mindful of their water useage and conserve wherever possible.  Planting a drought resistant landscape in lieu of grass lawns, identifying leaks and recycling household water (particulary running water waiting for heat in showers and sinks) should be a priority for every consumer in California.  New and emerging technologies are available to conservation minded residents, and many of PHCC’s member/plumbing contractors are certified Green Plumbers tm , and will assist their customers in utilizing advanced technologies such as recycled water, rain water capture and grey water technologies.  You can contact our offices at or 916-925-7390, or visit to find a PHCC Contractor and learn more.