California, a well-regarded bellwether and guinea pig when it comes to testing new laws, has once again set a new standard in eco-friendly legislation with an ordinance that requires low-flow fixtures in all renovations of homes aged 20 years or older.

New single-family homes are already mandated to be built with such equipment, but by 2017 the law will require all homes built before 1994 to also have them before they can be sold. Failure to upgrade will have to be disclosed by the seller.

Low-Flow Enforcement

The default response to this kind of legislative intrusion is often of the rebellious variety: “They’ll never know, and I’ll never tell.” Unfortunately for would-be scofflaws, legislators managed to build compliance enforcement into the measure.

Beginning in 2014, single-family homeowners of homes built before 1994 will have to show building inspectors their low-flow fixtures before they will be able to get approval for several different kinds of remodeling projects that require a blessing from the county.

Fixture Types + Water Savings

The law applies to toilets, interior faucets and shower heads. Studies show that homes outfitted with low-flow fixtures use as much as 35% less than homes with standard fixtures, which is a good thing in the long run for a state with increasing water costs.

Prices vary from place to place and are very hard to compare due to price-setting structures, usage and municipal fees not tied to volume, but California is known to be a comparatively expensive place to drink a glass of water. That means savings to homeowners could be significant.


Creating a legal requirement that people spend money is always met with resistance, but California’s new measure is seeing more pushback than usual due to perceived unfairness. The law gives commercial property owners more time to comply while at the same time making no concessions at all for those in poverty. The seeming imbalance has drawn a legal challenge, although the overall legislation is expected to stand. is curious about what you think: Should people be legally obligated to install low-flow water fixtures, or should they have the freedom to pay higher water bills?