State could adopt new low-water-use efficiency standards for residential clothes washers

Short Title
State could adopt new low-water-use efficiency standards for residential clothes washers
California would be first state to adopt measure
August 20, 2002

Updated September 10, 2002 - Note: Governor has signed bill.

The California Assembly Committee on Natural Resources yesterday passed Assembly Bill 1561, which will require new water efficiency standards on all residential clothes washers. The bill, authored by Assembly member Dave Kelley (R-Idyllwild) and sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority, would establish water standards that benefit both the state and consumers.

"Each machine will save more than 7,000 gallons of water per year," said Bill Jacoby, San Diego County Water Authority water resources manager. "On a state level, this totals approximately 991,000,000 gallons - or, enough to meet the water needs of over 6000 households for a year. Consumers will see lower water and electricity bills while California will see enhanced water reliability through water conservation and better water quality through reduced sewage flows." 
AB 1561 will now move onto the full Assembly for concurrence. AB 1561 follows on the heels of prior legislation sponsored by San Diego County Water Authority and California Energy Commission (CEC) regulations adopted earlier this year that set state water efficiency standards for coin-operated clothes washers. Passage of AB 1561 would make California the first state to adopt water efficiency standards for residential clothes washers.

AB 1561 has already passed the state Senate and upon the final concurrence vote by the Assembly will makes its way to the governor for signature. The bill, if signed by Governor Gray Davis and authorized by the Federal Department of Energy (DOE), will require that all machines sold in California meet the new water efficiency standard established in the legislation by 2007.

The CEC would need to amend existing regulations pertaining to energy efficiency standards for residential clothes washers to meet a water use efficiency factor of 9.5. The water factor is a measure of the amount of water used to wash one cubic foot of laundry. Currently, some washers rated as energy efficient have a water use efficiency factor of 11.0. The bill would also require the CEC to petition the DOE for an exemption from any federal regulation governing energy efficiency standards that are applicable to residential clothes washers.

Much of California's conservation efforts in washing machine standards have focused on saving energy. In January 2001 the DOE worked with manufacturers and energy conservation advocates to establish national energy efficiency standards for residential clothes washers, effective 2007. Despite requests from several water agencies (including the San Diego County Water Authority, Santa Barbara, and Santa Clara Valley Water District) to add a water efficiency standard, the language was not included.

The San Diego County Water Authority will continue its voucher incentive program designed to offset the cost of a high efficiency clothes washer, which typically retails at about $200 more than a traditional model. (The cost variation is due to differences for the energy standard, not the water standard.) Consumers can receive a $125 voucher that is applied at the point of purchase at participating retailers by calling 1-800-986-4538.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from Northern California and the Colorado River. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to almost three million county residents.

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