California is no stranger to drought cycles. According to the California Department of Water Resources, droughts since 2012 have been more frequent and severe, with the droughts of the past two years breaking records set nearly half a century ago. With atmospheric conditions severely affected by climate change, it appears California may well continue to suffer shrinking water supplies and increased fire danger.
While private citizens face tightening water restrictions, companies and industries
– including construction, are learning to adapt their projects and methods to a wide range of drought-induced changes.
In 2015, after four years of drought, California approved new state building codes restricting water-greedy landscaping around new construction including homes, schools, and businesses. The new codes cut by 20% the amount of water landscaping could use and required developers to plant more drought-friendly foliage and less turf. These codes are still in effect.
The swimming pool construction industry was an integral part of California life for decades. However, some pool companies were forced to close their doors due to hardline restrictions on installation and water usage during the first several years of the drought. Some areas such as Montecito banned new pool construction completely. Where pool construction is permitted, companies have adapted by now offering the option of a shallow pool with no diving board to conserve water.
The 2021-22 Governor’s Budget has allotted funds to state agencies for improvements in water security infrastructure, promising a host of new construction jobs. Areas to be addressed include water efficiency projects to assist in improving over-drafted groundwater basins and flood risk reduction across the state. In addition, funding has been approved for levee improvements and emergency preparedness in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Amidst these challenges, restrictions, and surprising new opportunities, the California construction industry has managed to thrive by embracing increased
water and energy efficiency and conservation. After a two-year decline, California construction reported a 20% surge in single-family residences during the first half of 2021 over the same period in 2020 and a 21% increase in multi-family housing.