After an historic series of atmospheric rivers struck California in the first quarter of this year, builders in the state find themselves three months behind the curve, weighing their current situation against the benefits of the drought’s end.
Hardest hit was Northern California, which not only experienced more storms, but heavier ones.
“It rained the whole months of January and February,” said Paul Porter, CEO of Premier Franchise Management, based in Granite City, Calif., of the weather up north.
The area was still experiencing rain in May. “It never rains this late in the year,” Porter said.
But Southern California took a hit as well. “The thing about these rains is they came every three days. It just never dried up enough to be able to do [anything],” said Scott Cohen, president of the California Pool and Spa Association, and owner of Green Scene Landscaping & Swimming Pools in Chatsworth, Calif.
It only exacerbates a situation where things were already stretched thin, with long backlogs and overworked crews.
“We added two more days to the work week, so its going to be nine days,” Cohen jokes. “We’re already working six days a week. I can’t force guys to work Sundays.”
While stronger performers will do fine and still enjoy a healthy backlog, some worry about the impact on companies that were already feeling the effects of economic forces. They wonder if this will prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, after price increases and inflation have caused noticeable drops in pool permits and sales downturns, especially for volume builders.
“I think it’s going to be devastating,” Porter said. “Because you can’t make the time up ... I believe there will be a lot of reasons that there’ll be builders going out ... It’s been a rough road for the last three to four years.”
But one can argue the previous five years more than made up for this year’s delays, Cohen said. The drought meant dry winters, allowing practically non-stop construction in the Golden State.
“It’s a balancing act like any other business,” Cohen said.
For Porter, it’s more than worth it to get the state out of the threat of drought restrictions.
“I’ll take this anytime,” he said. “When you have to ask for a glass of water at a restaurant, [people] start wondering, ‘Is it a good idea to put a pool in when I can’t get a glass of water?’”