The drought provides a new angle for illegal contractors to fleece the unwary.
“We’re starting to find unlicensed contractors out there kind of preying on people’s hopes to be able to have a nice yard but also being able to save water at the same time," says Rick Lopes, with California’s Contractors State License Board or CSLB, one of the state’s leading consumer protection agencies.
Earlier this month, the board conducted a sting operation in the Sacramento area and caught 11 people engaged in illegal contracting.
Lopes says hiring an unlicensed contractor is just a bad idea.
“There’s a good chance that they’re going to try to come in and lowball a bid to try to get the job and to get you to make a big down payment," he says.
Lopes says unlicensed contractors are also typically not covered by worker’s compensation insurance. That means if a worker gets hurt on your job, you may get stuck with the medical bills.
Lopes says before you hire a contractor make sure the business has a current state-issued license and check with the CSLB's website first.
California regulators are responding to the drought by adopting tighter landscaping rules for new construction and renovation. That means new water limits for residential, commercial, school and hospital lawns and other plantings.
A University of the Pacific economic forecast shows that drought has had a "relatively mild" impact on California's economy.
Another water district in Sacramento County is offering cash rebates for customers to remove grass.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and meteorologists in other countries show that strong-to-moderate El Niño conditions are present in the tropical Pacific. But it won't end the drought in California.
Stream fishing around Lake Tahoe and western Nevada is struggling because of the drought. But fishing may actually be better at the lake itself.