For some businesses, California’s drought has money flowing

This time of year, calls and emails come in every day: “I just built a pool – can you come fill it up?”

Amy Underwood, manager of Mel Underwood Water Trucks in Sylmar, which supplies water for special effects and fire safety to sets – said: “I’ve had at least seven just over the weekend – no must give thirsty homeowners. “We get calls from Inglewood, Crenshaw, El Monte, San Diego, Vernon, Bakersfield.”

It’s not just about filling up the pool. In the middle of a Southern California emergency water shortage and Strict usage restrictionsThe questions are getting bolder and bolder:

“’Hey, we’re having a drought and I can’t water my lawn – can you come water it? My neighbors will support me if I turn on my sprinkler,” said Underwood, rambling one example after another. “’We’re rebuilding our pool – can you come flush and store the water, then come back and refill it?” “We haven’t paid the water bill and we don’t. there’s water, can you come park your truck here so we can shower?”

“My answer is no, always no,” she said. “It’s a lawn, you’ll be fine.”

Taking water, saving water and, in some cases, stealing water have become mainstays of the drought microeconomy. It is a large and rapidly expanding market that includes products – artificial grass, rain water tank and low-flow home appliances among them – and services like security companies hired to patrol neighborhoods looking for signs of water waste; recycled water car wash facility; and companies will paint your grass brown green or remove your lawn and replace it with native landscaping.

For more than two decades, sprinkler placement and sprinkler repair have been key jobs for landscaper Daniel Gonzalez, whose wealthy Calabasas clients insist on lush, untouched lawns the infection is watered regularly and regularly.

But now “they don’t care about the sprinklers – they want them out,” Gonzalez said on Tuesday from the driveway of a protected Mountain View Estates home, the front lawn yellowing. covered with dirty dismantled plastic pipes and valves.

Daniel Gonzalez, left, and Derek Krauss

Landscaper Daniel Gonzalez, left, and Derek Krauss, field customer service representative for the Municipal Water District of Las Virgenes, at a home in Calabasas where Gonzalez spent the morning installing a drip irrigation system. He installed six in June at $4,500 each.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Homeowners paid Gonzalez $4,500 to install a drip irrigation system, a low-pressure watering system that delivers moisture directly to plant roots. Since the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District implemented a one-day-a-week outdoor watering restriction on June 1, he’s done the same for half a dozen other homes in the exclusive and scheduled community. Saturday in Thousand Oaks; Drip irrigation systems are exempt from the new regulation.

“People want them immediately,” said Gonzalez, 44, who lives in Reseda. With a team of three workers, he could get the job done in a day, but finding all the ingredients was a challenge due to high demand, ongoing supply chain problems, and inflation.

“They say they don’t have it,” he said of local hardware stores, where he buys parts, many of which are pre-ordered. Then “next time I came, they raised the price.”

At Smith Pipe & Supply in Westlake Village, customers forgo the 5-foot synthetic turf options – too expensive, not realistic – prominently displayed by the front door in favor of a drip irrigation system, Armando Luna, the salesman said.

“Everybody wonders about the time one day a week,” he said.

An artificial grass display area outside Smith Pipe & Supply in Westlake Village.

An artificial grass display area outside Smith Pipe & Supply in Westlake Village.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

They sell so fast that the store has trouble keeping them in stock and has recently added more models to its merchandise selection.

“My supervisor ordered 300 rolls of plain spool, but only 75 were delivered,” said Luna. “Then in two days, it was gone.”

To catch a thief

Since the new restrictions went into effect, officials have seen noticeable decrease water consumption in Southern California. But while many homeowners have cut back on their usage, others are spending money to keep things flowing.

“Those with the means have opportunities that they can create for themselves: hiring someone to water their lawn by hand; ‘I will drill my own well’; Mike McNutt, a spokesman for the Las Virgenes City Water District, said. “I don’t know if there’s anything we can do to prevent it, but it does highlight the difference between do’s and don’ts.”

County field representatives regularly drive through the cover area – which includes the super-rich areas of the Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Hidden Hills – looking for signs of water discharge, often in the form of water dripping down the side of the road. It also hired Dial Security, a Camarillo company, to run the patrols.

More than ever, we catch more stolen water trucks…. They’re getting smarter – they know at 2 a.m. we don’t work.

– Derek Krauss, field customer service representative for the City of Las Virgenes . Water District

A growing concern is water theft: thieves illegally hook fire hydrants and filling stations without permits, siphon off water and then sell it to consumers. Sometimes the companies behind such activities are legal day-to-day water suppliers, who are allowed to tap geysers to deliver water to construction sites, to control dust or to replenish water. hand washing stations.

“We are seeing more stolen water trucks than ever before,” said Derek Krauss, customer service representative for the school district. “It’s not a very common thing, but it does happen.”

Krauss said residents called when they noticed the trucks had their faucets turned on but were rarely able to provide identifying details because the vehicles were often unmarked. The district suspects most of the activity takes place at midnight.

“If they disconnect and take off, there’s nothing we can do,” Krauss said. “They’re getting smarter – they know at 2 a.m. we’re not working.”

But in general, businesses have been operating on a large scale, many businesses voluntarily reduce their water consumption, said David Pedersen, general manager of Las Virgenes.

Cheesecake Factory

Some businesses have voluntarily reduced their water consumption. The Cheesecake Factory, based in Calabasas, uses large amounts of water due to the equipment washing required during cheesecake production; it has installed water-saving nozzles and nozzles.

(Ricardo DeArathanha / Los Angeles Times)

One of the largest commercial water users in the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, he said, is the Cheesecake Factory, because of the amount of washing equipment required in the mass production of cheesecakes at his bakery. they are there. To make the cut, restaurant chain Calabasas has voluntarily installed water-saving sprinklers and sprinklers, Pedersen said, noting that the school district has been hesitant to implement restrictions on local companies fear it will affect productivity and hurt the economy.

Less water, more fire

Despite efforts to mitigate the effects of drought, businesses behind the scenes are also preparing for the inevitable wildfires – and more.

Insurance companies in 22 states contract with Forest fire defense system to protect families and businesses; Bozeman, Mont., mobilizes firefighters and support teams during wildfires.

Last year, it responded to 52 California wildfires, serving 6,867 properties at risk; This year, an estimated 100 wildfires and about 10,000 properties are at risk statewide, said CEO David Torgerson.

A firefighter assesses the approaching fire

A firefighter assesses an approaching fire in rural California’s Nevada County as the Rices Fire burned in late June.

(Elias Funez / Associated Press)

“The scale has increased,” he said. Currently, “we are at least 30 days ahead of where we were at this time last year. If you go back to 2017, the size, the intensity, the frequency, the number of assets at stake is growing rapidly.”

Large national companies like Wildfire Defense Systems are busy all year round. But Gonzalez, Reseda’s landscaper, says despite the recent business boom, he’s worried about the nature of only selling drought-related products: Once the drip irrigation system is installed put in the house, there will be little need for his services. in front of.

“You just put it in once and that’s it,” he said. “And then the rest of the year – I don’t know.” For some businesses, California’s drought has money flowing

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