Map by Jessica Rubenstein. Data provided by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Map by Jessica Rubenstein. Data provided by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Drought. It may seem like the buzzword of the moment, but the dry spell plaguing nearly one-third of the country is much more than a trending topic.

In California, the historic four-year drought has hit an all-time extreme, with continuously low precipitation and snowpack, increasingly high temperatures, and depleting groundwater influencing the latest mandate handed down from Gov. Jerry Brown on May 5: Californians must cut overall potable urban water use by 25%.

Now, Washington State has joined the drought conversation, with Gov Jay Inslee declaring a statewide drought emergency on May 15.

Neighboring Oregon also could be headed down the same path as conditions worsen in the western part of the state. “Oregon has been in some form of a drought for the past four years, but this year is the worst because of the snowpack,” said Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Service Deputy Director, according to KEZI News. Other regions of the country also are under close watch, with the U.S. Drought Monitor recording unreasonably dry conditions in some areas of the Southeast and Northeast. Parts of Texas, Colorado, and the Deep South are facing near-drought conditions even as new residents flock to water-imperiled cities like Atlanta, Austin, and Houston.

The dry conditions are impacting nearly every industry from farming to manufacturing, and the construction industry is not immune. For instance, reports indicate new housing starts have slowed, possibly as a result of the drought. Despite these figures, however, regions in the state still are issuing building permits, including Sacramento and Orange counties, two areas with continued anticipated growth.

On the consumer front, U.S. home buyers have been slow to embrace water-saving measures. Products and technologies that conserve the precious resource are not as in demand as energy-efficient features because there is little financial gain that comes from saving such an inexpensive commodity. Even though buyers aren’t asking for it, many production builders are committed to residential water conservation. Those in drought-prone areas of the country are leading the way with new approaches such as graywater recycling, drip irrigation, and rainwater reuse, which until recently were unheard of on a production scale. In BUILDER’s special report, we present four homes that have takeaways for builders across the country as more jurisdictions struggle with water woes--and more consumers take note.

Water Conservation Takes Center Stage with New Rating System
7 Water-Saving Products to Help Cut Usage by 25%
Drought is More Than a California Worry
Builders Can Tap into $1,000 Rebates for Water-Conserving Homes
Three Comprehensive Strategies for Reduce Water Consumption
Water-Wise Landscaping for all Regions
Water Wise and Naturally Beautiful 
House Converts Saltwater to Fresh Water