Above image: Ventura City Hall. Photo by Troy Harvey. Source: vcstar.com

Even as California Governor Jerry Brown’s declaration of the drought’s urgency ripples through county- and city-level governments, Ventura County has defeated a recently proposed building moratorium. The Ventura City Council declared a water emergency last September, and many residents felt that a ban on new construction should be part of the equation. Quite a few new projects are in the pipeline for Ventura, with 75 residential building permits issued in 2013, at least 249 in 2014, and an additional 439 expected in 2015.1 The Council voted in mid-April to forgo a moratorium, but far from reassuring prospective builders that water usage is no concern, this decision should be all the more reason to be conscientious about water-wise building practices. In this post, we dig deeper into the water costs of construction and how designers, contractors, and owners can build water conservation into their projects.

New construction places a strain on natural water systems in several ways:

  • Construction projects inevitably replace highly permeable surfaces such as soil with non-permeable surfaces such as concrete. This has the effect of water running off and into drainage systems instead of being allowed to enter the topsoil, causing the soil to dry out.
  • A typical concrete mix has a ratio of 40% water to 60% cement mix. Your foundation means more than your building’s footprint… it also points to your ecological footprint! Plaster is also a water intensive material commonly found on building sites.
  • A common method of controlling dust on a site is to water it down. This requires a lot of water to be sprayed around collecting silt and man-made pollutants that can soak into the ground.2

Ask your architectural and construction teams begin sketching out your project, discuss the water-saving options available to you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • If you have been thinking about a bathroom makeover, a drought is a great time to get busy. You will help your utility with immediate savings and save yourself money on future bills. WaterSense labeled products are a great way to save!3 This list includes water-efficient products certified by WaterSense, an EPA Partnership Program, including toilets, bathroom sink faucets, shower heads, spray valves, and more.Look for the EPA's WaterSense label on appliances and fixtures for your project.
  • Instead of wetting construction dust to keep it from blowing around, ask about sweeping dust from the site instead, which will cut down on fresh water used. Weighted tarpaulins and seals should be used to keep dust in containers rather than constantly dampening them.
  • Explore porous paving bricks and pervious parking areas to help reduce storm water runoff by allowing rainwater to soak into the ground. 4

The good news is that there are lots of water-conscious options for your project that are stylish, sustainable, and affordable. Questions about what’s right for your project? Contact us at Dylan Chappell Architects today and we’d love to take a look at what might be right for you.

If this article has whetted your appetite for more water wisdom, get started with our source articles: 1. “Ventura Lawmakers Consider Building Moratorium” from the Ventura County Star 2. “Water Use in Construction” from Building DIY & Gardens 3. “Drought and WaterSense” from WaterSense: An EPA Partnership Program 4. “Conserving Water” from EPA Green Building

This post is part of a DCA series on the


For more water-conscious thinking:

This Just In: Santa Barbara May Declare a Stage Three Drought Emergency

Learn about drought-tolerant plants for the Santa Barbara area

View dramatic photos of California’s historic drought



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