Builders Adjust to California’s Drought

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The California Building Industry Asso­ci­ation has taken action to save water

Builders Adjust to California’s Drought

A canal in Venice, Calif. Photo: cdooginz/DeviantArt

September 17, 2015

Now in its fourth year of drought, the state of California is reeling. Rivers are drying up, wells are depleting, and grass, trees, and crops are dying.

Proactive measures are being taken to fight the drought, which has affected the entire state, with the stretch from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe being hardest hit. California’s state water board has approved emergency drought regulations that seek to cut urban water use by 25 percent; websites such as WaterDeeply.org gather the latest updates; and groups like Save Our Water provide water conservation tips.

The California Building Industry Asso­ci­ation has also taken action. The group’s president, Dave Cogdill, submitted testimony to Congress, writing to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the state could save water if the federal government helped retrofit houses with water-efficient fixtures.

Of California’s 13.6 million units of housing stock, 9.2 million units were constructed under building standards that lacked provisions for water or energy efficiency. Cogdill said in his testimony that replacing showerheads, toilets, and faucets with low-flow models would reduce water usage in homes by up to 50 percent, which could save more than 300 billion gallons of water annually. Making these upgrades in existing homes would cost an average of less than $1,500. “We respectfully request that the fed­er­al government provide significant fund­ing to help encourage these types of com­mon sense drought mitigation measures,” Cogdill wrote in his testimony.

Even with water conservation laws going into effect, and with other industries such as farming suffering greatly, home building is still relatively unaffected.

According to the Construction In­dus­try Research Board (CIRB), 85,468 units were built in California in 2014. That was more than in 2013 (85,310), which was more than in 2012 (59,225) and 2011 (47,336). The number of new units is now at its highest mark since 2007, when 113,034 units were built. The CIRB says that 107,586 homes are projected to be built in 2015. 

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