The Great California Laundry and Shower Meme, Explained

Take a selfie while you can. We're not getting enough of this in California.Jebb Harris via ZUMA

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Last night I received the following peculiar tweet:

It just so happens that on Monday I took a shower and did a load of laundry. I’m pretty sure this is still legal, even here in the Golden State. But, um, what brought this up?

Oh. But wait. I thought Glenn Beck had become a monk? Or was now running a honky tonk saloon or something. I guess not. Still ranting for a living, apparently. But in case you’re curious, here’s a simplified version of what really happened and how it’s now turned into a bizarre conservative meme:

  1. California is suffering through an epic drought. This is not due to liberal idiocy, it’s due to the fact that we aren’t getting much rain up in the Sierras lately.
  2. So we have to conserve water. To that end, way back in 2009 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill requiring urban water suppliers to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020.
  3. As the drought of the 20-teens progressed, that goal became laughable. We didn’t even have that much water. We blew past the 20 percent conservation goal years early because we had no choice.
  4. As it became clear that our drought was likely to stay around for a good long time, it made sense to do some long-term planning for more serious water conservation. Eventually, the result was AB1668, signed into law a few days ago.
  5. AB1668 does a number of things, and one of them is to commit urban water districts to more stringent water-use targets. But there are a few things to keep in mind about this.
  6. First, the actual target is a 20 percent reduction in overall residential water starting from the 2020 baseline.
  7. This target includes both indoor and outdoor water use.
  8. The provisional target for indoor water use is 55 gallons per capita. That’s 110 gallons for a family of two, 165 for a family of three, etc. It’s plenty for showers and laundry and toilet flushing for everyone, and it’s likely to be replaced by a more flexible target before anything goes into effect anyway.
  9. The target for outdoor water use hasn’t been set yet.
  10. These targets are overall averages, not individual daily limits. Individuals can still do whatever they want, whenever they want. However, all the individuals together will need to meet the goal of an overall 20 percent reduction.
  11. Most likely, this goal will be met mostly via (a) recycling, (b) cutting back on outdoor watering, and (c) better efficiency. The impact on ordinary indoor residential use will be fairly modest.
  12. And that’s about it.

So, yes, California needs to save water thanks to a lack of rainfall in recent years. The overall goal is a 20 percent reduction in residential water use compared to the 2020 baseline, and that goal will be met via some combination of cuts in indoor and outdoor residential use. However, there will be plenty of water for ordinary day-to-day use, and it will remain perfectly legal to shower and do laundry on the same day if you’re feeling up to it.

Nonetheless, I’m sure a wingnut meme has been born. We’ll probably be hearing this idiocy for years.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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