California's Title 20 Water Efficiency Standards

Posted by Chris Ehlers on January 24, 2018

Not only has California been stricken by a prolonged drought, but it’s also embroiled in legal battles over the state’s access to water from the Colorado River and other sources. In an effort to lower the state’s overall water use, California Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order in 2015 to improve the efficiency of water appliances in new and existing buildings throughout the state.


According to the California Energy Commission, state residents use about 443 billion gallons of water a year to run faucets and flush toilets and urinals. The new California Title 20 Water Efficiency Standards were expected to save more than 10 billion gallons in 2016, the first year they went into effect. Eventually, the Commission predicts that annual savings will be as much as 105 billion gallons.

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Water savings are expected to increase as businesses and residences replace their old toilets, urinals, faucets and showerheads. The new water efficiency standards state that as of Jan. 1, 2016, only compliant kitchen faucets, public lavatory faucets, toilets and urinal flush valves can be sold in the state. However, existing faucets and toilets in homes and businesses don’t have to be replaced. Also, California distributors, wholesalers and retailers are able to sell noncompliant residential lavatory faucets and shower devices they had in stock as of Jan. 1, 2016.

Here’s what the California Title 20 Water Efficiency Standards encompass:

  • Toilets and urinals - Toilets must have a maximum water use of 1.28 gallons per flush, and a waste extraction score of 350 grams, minimum. Urinals are limited to 0.125 gallons or less per flush. These standards apply to all fixtures except those in prison or mental health facilities, which have specially designed toilets and urinals for security and health reasons.
  • Urinal flush valves - Maximum flow can’t exceed 0.125 gallons per flush.
  • Residential lavatory faucets - Maximum flow can’t exceed 1.2 gallons per minute.
  • Kitchen faucets - Maximum flow rate is 1.8 gallons per minute. However, faucets can have the capability to boost flow to 2.2 gallons per minute to fill pots and pans.
  • Public lavatory faucets - Maximum flow rate is 0.5 gallon per minute.
  • Shower devices (showerheads, hand showers, body sprays/jets) - Maximum flow rate is 1.8 gallons per minute.

California’s new water efficiency standards could lead to nationwide adoption, as major manufacturers have said they’ll sell California-compliant faucets outside the state as well.

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