The construction industry has a complicated relationship with the California drought, which is now getting close to a fifth year. Gains in the construction industry helped the California economy bounce back from the effects of the recession, and it’s kept going at a sustained pace in order to meet the needs of a constantly growing population. To put any restrictions on construction in the midst of California’s water shortage doesn’t make a lot of sense, due to the above-mentioned housing demand and the economic boost that the industry facilitates.
However, last month, the State Water Resources Control Board approved emergency regulations which are intended to meet the 25% reduction in state water use ordered by the Governor. California authorities are taking steps to relieve water demands, allowing construction to proceed under more drought-friendly conditions. Then, on May 29th, the California Building Standards Commission approved emergency regulations revising the 2013 Green Building Standards that substantially reduce the amount of water that may be used by new developments. Under the new standards, new construction on an area of land larger than 2,500 square feet will have to meet lower water usage requirements.
These rules are intended to reduce the water that homeowners use on their lawns, requiring developers and contractors to use less grass and take other measures to limit water needs, thereby instituting more drought-resistant landscapes in California.
Is there anything else that a builder will have to consider in the near future when it comes to water conservation and efficiency? In the early 2000’s, the California legislature passed Senate Bills 221 and 610, which aimed to enhance the relationship between new land development and water availability. As a result of these laws, especially during the drought, local water districts and community planning departments have been drawn closer together.
Some of these effects have been described in a recent article in the Press-Enterprise. For the Yucaipa Valley Water District for example, the water allocation pattern has changed to put the community’s needs before that of new construction, and requires developers to pay for a certain amount of water which the water district will then set aside.
There are many ways in which government agencies, builders, landscapers and homeowners will have to work together to reach the water usage level ordered by the governor. We are already seeing plans move ahead to improve water efficiency, recycle water and of course, conserve. Reducing how much water we’re using on our lawns is just the first step that we have taken to address California’s extreme drought.