In yet another trend-setting environmental move by California, Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed into law this week a bill requiring old, inefficient washing machines to be replaced with water-efficient ones by 2007. New washers must now meet a standard of using 9.5 gallons of water to wash one cubic foot of laundry — well below the 13.3 gallons averaged by washers sold in 1994. The measure comes as the Golden State heads into its fourth straight year of drought, and as neighboring states, also hit by a lack of rainfall, clamor for a bigger share of the Colorado River water that California has guzzled for decades. Supporters of the law say residents say it could save about 1 billion gallons of water annually, or enough to supply 6,000 households statewide. Critics claim the law will force consumers to spend money on new washers, but advocates counter that the money will be recouped by water and energy savings.

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