Everybody has undoubtedly heard the news that Governor Schwarzenegger has declared that California is in a drought and we need to conserve as much water as possible. The homebuilding industry is especially concerned about California’s water situation and shares the Governor’s commitment to increase our water supply and improve our water conveyance infrastructure.

Our industry stands ready to work with Governor Schwarzenegger and our legislative leaders to solve the water crisis facing our state.

However before we can find solutions, we need to set the record straight about growth in California and the real impact new homes have on water demand. As Dan Walters recently pointed out, “California’s population has doubled since the last major water projects were built in the 1960s, and it probably will increase by another third by 2030. Having more people means more demand for water, even with the most stringent conservation programs.”

The fact is that California is growing rapidly with the majority of our new residents calling Southern California home. What this means is that its time to start focusing anew on how we can meet the inevitability of demand created by this new growth and stop tired efforts to curb new home construction in the state. We are growing by about 500,000 new residents each year and they must have somewhere to live.

Just as soon as the Governor declared the drought, a board member at the Jurupa Community Services Board, declared that new homes shouldn’t be built until the water crisis is solved. And as the NY Times reported this past weekend, Eastern Municipal Water District in Southwest Riverside County threatened to stop all new developments for the same reasons. Unfortunately, these so-called solutions are simply political games and don’t quench the need for real solutions to California’s water crisis.

New homes today are dramatically more water-conserving than their predecessors. Voluntary landscaping ordinances, smart sprinkler systems, new water fixtures and low water-use toilets mean new homes use far less water than old. By discouraging the best practices in water conservation by stopping new housing projects we are essentially requiring new residents to live in older residences that are much less water efficient.

The question facing policy makers is how do we make sure we have an adequate water supply and that supply is used as efficiently as possible? New homes aren’t the problem; it’s the drought of new ideas that leads policy makers to believe that a moratorium on building is what we need to curtail our water crisis.