Every year we celebrate Earth Day as our annual reminder to support environmental stewardship and combat the devastating effects of climate change. Beyond Earth Day 2015, none of these effects will be more topical than the California water crisis.
Another warm, dry winter left the state with a
record-low 5 percent of its average mountain snowpack, a vital source of fresh water. California has always been subject to periodic droughts, but the latest one has been exacerbated by
record-high temperatures that increase evaporation and turn more winter precipitation from snow to rain. Heading into its dry season, two-thirds of the state remains in extreme drought,
USA Today reported earlier this week.
As a result, California Gov. Jerry Brown recently mandated a 25 percent water-use reduction for residents and nonagricultural businesses in the state—the first of many mandatory water restrictions to come. Last weekend, state regulators took their second crack at a draft of strict community-by-community water reduction rules, as recently
The New York Times.
For commercial building owners and companies who own or operate real estate in California, the water-reduction mandates have significant implications.
A new report by JLL explained that commercial real estate landscaping and indoor water consumption accounts for 2.5 percent of all state water use, while industrial and energy real estate accounts for .8 percent of all state water.
“The state [of California] has made it clear that local water boards should target low-hanging fruit in the commercial building sector, such as landscaping,” says Bob Best, Executive Vice President of Energy & Sustainability Services at JLL, who advises landlords and tenants on sustainability initiatives. “Owners of suburban office parks in California will need to consider cutting back on water use more than owners of urban office buildings, where there is little or no landscaping.”
In addition to landscaping, Best says building owners and tenants must also consider technology upgrades like low-flow water fixtures to mitigate their water use. “Part of the state mandate includes a moratorium on water fixtures that are not low-flow,” he says. “There should be plenty of supply for low-flow fixtures.”
State officials intend to adopt a final order by the beginning of May, with enforcement—which includes fines of up to $10,000 a day—kicking in by the middle of July. The rush reflects an attempt to put the new rules into place as California moves into the summer, with high consumption driven largely by outdoor watering.
But the new policies aren’t just wielding sticks—they include plenty of carrots as well. Best says incentives are in place to help building owners and tenants in California mitigate the costs associated with replacing lawns, improving irrigation systems and upgrading metering systems to monitor water flow more accurately.