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Tourists take photographs as snow covered mountain tops rise behind downtown Los Angeles from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2017. (AP/Vogel) Tourists take photographs as snow covered mountain tops rise behind downtown Los Angeles from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2017. (AP/Vogel)

Tourists take photographs as snow covered mountain tops rise behind downtown Los Angeles from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2017. (AP/Vogel)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy January 21, 2020

Don’t fall for this old hoax about showering and doing laundry in California

If Your Time is short

  • It's not illegal for Californians to shower and wash laundry on the same day.
  • New California laws instruct water districts to establish strict water budgets, but they don't target individuals with fines.
  • We debunked the same misinformation in 2018.

The police won’t come knocking for Californians who shower and do laundry on the same day, despite what some social media users would have you believe.

An old hoax about California’s water conservation laws recently resurfaced after a guest on a Los Angeles TV station shared misinformation on air.

"Starting Jan. 1 California residents can’t take shower, do laundry, poop in toilet and flush on same day," said one Facebook post that drew thousands of views to the segment, which was broadcast Dec. 31 on KTLA. "No really! This is not satire. 55 Gallons per person!"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We debunked the same bogus information about California’s conservation efforts in 2018, shortly after then-California Gov. Jerry Brown signed two water-use bills into law.

Now, as the misinformation makes a resurgence, we wanted to set the record straight: It was never illegal for Californians to shower and wash laundry on the same day. It still isn’t.

Old hoax, new outrage

The renewed controversy came after KTLA, a local TV station, ran a segment on Dec. 31 about "unusual and underreported" California laws taking effect in 2020. 

The network welcomed Southern California lawyer Richard Lee on the show, and an anchor teed up a discussion of two California water laws that Lee said would apply in 2020. 

Lee’s response parroted many of the inaccurate claims we looked at in 2018.

"Doing a load of laundry takes about 40 to 50 gallons of water," Lee said. "Taking a shower for about eight minutes takes about 17 gallons of water."

"Well, there’s a limitation on your daily use of water of 55 gallons per day," he continued. "So that means, if you are taking a shower and if you’re doing a load of laundry, you can’t do both without being in violation of the law."

Lee went on to say that violators would be fined "$1,000 per each day that you are in violation," and more during drought conditions, starting Jan. 1, 2020.

"Wow," KTLA Morning News anchor Mark Kriski said. "So all of a sudden, I can smoke marijuana as much as I want, but I can’t take a shower. Unbelievable."

Claims that the laws ban showering and laundry on the same day are False. We fact-checked them when they first circulated in 2018. So did Snopes and a number of local news outlets.

KTLA replaced the clip on its website with a correction noting that the segment "included factual errors about two laws going into effect in 2020 regarding water conservation."

But that effort didn’t stop the video from spreading to all corners of social media and making headlines on conservative sites such as American Lookout and the Gateway Pundit

The misinformation spread so far and so fast that the California Department of Water Resources and the Association of California Water Agencies both issued statements debunking it. 

A representative from KTLA declined to comment, but Lee told us that "the segment was intended to simply be a quick rundown that each person in California could and should be more mindful on his or her indoor water usage."

"I was simply stating that 55 gallons per day is the standard for per capita indoor water usage per day set forth by the state legislature," he said. "Those fines are to the water agency or provider. That said, there is the question of whether a water agency or provider would pass along this fine to the individual consumer."

Individuals don’t have to worry about fines

The false claims about California water use center on two bills — Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668 — that Brown, the state’s former governor, signed into law on May 31, 2018, as California was reeling from a five-year drought that ended in 2017.  

Broadly speaking, the laws instruct cities, water districts and some larger agricultural water districts to establish strict water budgets. 

But the new water limits — which kick in starting in 2023, not 2020 — won’t target individuals. 

The legislation requires cities, water districts and large agricultural water districts to come up with budgetary targets for water use by 2022. They will need to meet these targets across their ratepayer bases, with failure to do so resulting in a fine of $1,000 per day or $10,000 per day during drought emergencies.  

George Kostyrko, director of the office of public affairs for the State Water Resources Control Board, told us the water districts will be guided in their target-setting by a few standards, one of which is the allowance of 55 gallons per capita per day for indoor residential water use — a number that will drop to 50 gallons by 2030. 

"These are not individual mandates for homeowners, but actually a task given to each water district to average water consumption use out to hit the goal," Kostyrko said.

"There is nothing regulating the time a person may shower or when they may or may not do laundry," added Jim Metropulos, legislative director for state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, who wrote Assembly Bill 1668.

In sum, fines based on consumption will be administered to the water agencies that fail to meet their goals, not to individuals who use too much water in their daily lives. 

Of course, water districts could theoretically shift those costs to individual water bills. But no resident will be fined $1,000 for doing laundry and showering on a normal day.

Senate Bill 606 does give water agencies the ability to fine some individual lawbreakers, the Sacramento Bee noted. But that’s only when they violate local water-use limits during an official "water shortage emergency" that threatens "human consumption, sanitation, and fire protection."

Our ruling

A Facebook post said, "Starting Jan. 1 California residents can’t take shower, do laundry, poop in toilet and flush on same day."

Legislation in California means that collectively, Californians will soon need to begin using less water in order for water districts to meet the state’s efficiency standards. 

But those limits haven’t kicked in yet, and when they do, the government won’t start demanding hefty fines from residents who shower and do laundry on the same day.

We rate this statement False.

Our Sources

Steve Hawks "Straight Talk With the Hawk" Platinum Real Estate Professional on Facebook, "No Shower and Laundry on Same Day in California," Jan. 6, 2020

KTLA, "New Unusual and Underreported Laws in 2020 With Richard Lee," Dec. 31, 2019

The Sacramento Bee, "Myth about huge California fines for shower and laundry usage won’t die. Here’s what’s true," Jan. 8, 2020

California Department of Water Resources, "Fast Facts on the Water Conservation Legislation," accessed Jan. 16, 2020

ACWA, "Correct Information on California Water Efficiency Laws," Jan. 2, 2020

PolitiFact, "Is it illegal to shower and do laundry on the same day in California?" June 7, 2018

Email interview with Richard Lee, attorney at Salisian Lee LLP, Jan. 17, 2020

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Don’t fall for this old hoax about showering and doing laundry in California

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