As Drought Continues, California Homeowners Look for Water-Reducing Home Improvements

While the Northeastern United States has spent the last few months at the mercy of harsh snowstorms, California remains stuck in one of the longest and most severe droughts in history. Tired of watching their lawns wilt even as their water bills skyrocket, many homeowners are now considering alternatives to normal home features in an attempt to decrease monthly expenses. Whether this means using synthetic grass or investing in energy-efficient kitchen appliances, as California prepares for its fourth consecutive year of drought, homeowners are willing to consider it all.

On Saturday, March 7, hundreds of Californians headed to the San Jose Spring Home Show to look for ideas. Held at the San Hose McEnery Convention Center, the event featured 120 vendors, ranging from general kitchen contractors to landscaping specialists. But whether someone was participating as a merchant or a potential customer, saving water, as well as the money associated with this valuable resource, was the main focus.

Of the different offerings, landscaping products were the most popular: some homeowners reported that they had been spending as much as $200 a month to water their lawns before cutting back. As a result, products like Onelawn were more attractive than they might be in other areas: the synthetic lawn product costs $14 to $16 per square foot including installation, but looks and feels remarkably real and does not need to be watered. Moreover, representatives from the San Francisco-based company pointed out that their product does not contain lead, unlike imported synthetic grass, and that some California water districts offer rebates for replacing landscape.

Meanwhile, other homeowners were drawn to the general contractors, who are now just as likely to install faux grass and hardscapes, like cement and paver stones, as they are new kitchens and bathrooms. Vendors report that their business has increased considerably over the course of the last year as clients begin looking for new landscaping options. In regards to this choice, hardscapes reportedly have a number of benefits: For example, paver stones are porous, meaning they drain better, do not crack, and give homes the look of Portuguese or Spanish influence.

However, hardscaping isn’t the only thing general contractors can do to help a home’s energy efficiency. Experts say there are a number of appliances and design choices that can help promote water conservation and other environmentally-friendly results.

“We’ve seen a lot of people start to be more concerned about how much water is in their toilets. Many are opting for 1.2 gallons in order to save,” said John Gubisch, co-owner of Smith Thomas and Smith, a residential remodeling business. “Other water-saving options that have become popular are showerhead restrictors, recirculating pumps, and instant-hot water taps.”

For homeowners looking to make more exotic changes, however, some vendors also offered plants like plumerias, a flower best known for its use in Hawaiian leis. Dormant in the winter, the plummerias at the event were reportedly tall and bare-looking. However, merchants said that even when they flowered in a few months, the plants would likely need only a gallon of water a month. Plumerias grow on the dry side of the Hawaiian islands, making them perfect for the California drought. As the dry weather continues, worrying homeowners and environmentalists alike, changes to state homes and gardens, like the ones showcased in San Jose, will likely be needed.

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