In 1983, the Durand Express reported that the city of Durand, Michigan’s water pipes were contaminated with dihydrogen oxide. More alarming, dihydrogen oxide was the main component in acid rain, contributed to the “greenhouse effect” and caused erosion in natural landscapes, the hoax went.

Of course, dihydrogen oxide is more commonly known as water.

Without science, we are susceptible to let fears and ignorance dominate decision-making. Such is the case with the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) rule governing perchlorate.

There’s no getting around it – perchlorate sounds bad. If someone asked if you wanted it in your water, you would almost assuredly say no. Yet, like water, it is also naturally occurring. Because it occurs naturally, it is found in water supplies, soil, agricultural crops, and dairy cattle. It is even found in the fertilizers that farmers use to grow their crops. And at low levels, like those that occur naturally, it has not been shown to have any effect on the human body at all, adverse or otherwise.

Nevertheless, California’s regulators recently announced a “public health goal” that says perchlorate cannot exceed one part per billion, down from six parts per billion previously. That is about the equivelant of half a teaspoon in an Olympic sized swimming pool.  While the PHG is not legally enforceable, it is the first step for the State Water Resources Control Board to make legally-binding drinking water standards.

And herein lies the rub. The state of California is experiencing a significant drought. The water board approved Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut water use by 25 percent earlier this month. Meanwhile, more than a couple counties are thinking about following San Diego’s lead in building costly desalination plants at a cost of $1 billion per in the response of this persistent threat. We need every drop of water that we can get our hands on.  Against this backdrop, the OEHHA inexplicably thought it was a good time pursue an unnecessary regulation that will both increase cost of water and decrease available supplies all without making water any safer to drink.

For decades, California regulators and environmentalists have made it pretty clear that they want anything and everything removed from their water supply regardless of the cost. In light of the current drought, that’s an approach that probably needs to be reconsidered. Conserving water means protecting the limited supplies that we have and the external costs of this regulation will be significant.  California has the largest agricultural sector in the country. Literally tens of billions of dollars in economic activity and hundreds of thousands of jobs are dependent on agriculture and access to water. Will California’s agriculture industry be the next ones to leave the state for greener pastures?

Officials in Washington are also debating whether federal regulation for perchlorate is necessary and have been for more than ten years. We have over 50 years of consistent scientific evidence that confirms the low levels of perchlorate present in our water are not a health concern The years of science and study that have accompanied this debate continue to demonstrate that levels of perchlorate this low pose absolutely no risk to our health.

It’s easy to write off what California regulators are doing as having no impact on the rest of us. That the proposed regulation will have a crippling impact on California is certain, but the rest of America will feel the pain as well. California water supports 80% of the country’s agricultural production. Because perchlorate is naturally present, we will always have low levels of it in our water. That is an inescapable fact that cannot be regulated away.

Declaring the vast majority of California’s available water supply as off-limits with no scientific basis is a luxury that Californians no longer have.

Stephen DeMaura serves as president of Americans for Job Security.