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California Drought Creates New Market for Niche Small Businesses

The historic drought that has burned California and forced water rations has left commodity brokers scrambling, but it has also created a business opportunity for a unique subset of entrepreneurs: lawn spray-painters.

For only $300, homeowners can transform entire scorched lawns into lush-looking, green yards. Businesses offer a variety of paint colors, expanding their products and services as demand continues to grow. Some brands of lawn paint are reportedly all-natural, nontoxic, and biodegradable grass and mulch paint. Sales of these products have tripled this year. 

Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that limited the watering of lawns to no more than two days per week with fines of up to $500. Water providers from all over California have been offering rebates to homeowners who switch to landscape that doesn’t require watering, like natural sage, rocks, lawn paint, and wildflowers.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has said that it has received requests to remove 2.5 million square feet of residential lawns in July 2014, up from 99,000 in January 2014. Residents have reduced water bills by around 20 percent by removing their lawns in some parts of California. Replacing a 1,000-square-foot lawn saves about 21,000 gallons of water per year.

The drought is dangerous and costly to all involved, but it is interesting to see how demands are formed in the market and how inventive entrepreneurs succeed in creatively solving problems and meeting those needs. 

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