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Help for Homeowners

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California's severe drought prompts innovation.

California is in the midst of its third consecutive year of drought conditions while water usage remains relatively unchanged or has even increased. However homeowners are now under restrictions that prohibit hosing off driveways and lawn water runoff, with violations costing up to $500. With the introduction of an app called Dropcountr, readily available regulation of water use may help prevent those fines. The app monitors daily use so users can see long-term patterns (such as more use on weekends). It also warns users if it suspects there is a leak and it shows water usage in houses similar in size for comparison. Dropcountr CEO Robb Barnitt said, "The first response we get from folks is, 'Wow, I had no idea that I used that much water.' That's really the first piece we're trying to deliver—transparency and visibility. It's really tough to gain much insight from your water bill." The company is working to broaden the number of utility districts the app is available for and is also coordinating with property management companies in an effort to expand the app to renters.

Another solution is the slightly absurd idea of lawn painting which allows homeowners to save water while maintaining curb appeal. It’s a consideration that is quickly gaining popularity throughout California with new companies offering the service popping up, and established ones seeing sales increases of 60 percent. Each paint jobs lasts three to six months and costs about $175 for a 500 square foot lawn. The paint that is used is nontoxic and once it dries, it doesn’t run. One San Bernardino resident remarked, “It became a real eyesore…I heard about a service where people paint your lawn so it looks like the real thing and thought, why not?  We've had lots of people stop over and say it looks good.”

Now that homeowners have some innovative options to utilize during the drought, it’s time to focus on controlling the wildfires that have resulted, regulating Nestle’s water bottling plant in Southern California, and finding ways to protect Napa Valley’s vineyards to avoid a wine shortage.

Photo by Robert V, licensed under Creative Commons.