In the weeks since California Gov. Gerry Brown (D) issued an executive order mandating a 25% reduction in water use for all urban water users to address what scientists predict could become the worst drought in 1,000 years, the state's energy commission approved water-appliance standards that would dramatically increase performance requirements for building components such as toilets, faucets and urinals.

"The technology is there, and we're eager to install more-efficient fixtures in buildings," says Courtney Lorenz, director of environmental management at Skanska USA. In her opinion, it's the responsibility of building owners and end users to discover which water-conserving technologies are available and how they would translate into real savings. "For contractors, we have [that] ability," she says.

Apart from conservation efforts, the state is counting on engineering and construction firms to increase California's water supply, as well: State voters approved a $7.5-billion water bond in 2014. The funds represent "the most significant statewide investment in water-supply infrastructure projects in decades," according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

The bond package includes surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking-water protection, CPUC said.

"A lot of that work is in the planning stages, and we're seeing some pretty standard canal remediation projects and things like that, but nothing major in Southern California yet," says Garrett Francis, district manager, Association of General Contractors, Los Angeles.

"Now, my guys—Turner, Griffith and some of the heavy-civil firms—are concerned about future developments and all of the work in Los Angeles, but water [restrictions] will affect the homebuilders a lot more than commercial contractors," he adds.