by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
In Bel Air One Household Used an Astonishing 11.8 Million Gallons
Hey, we're in a drought and people are being encouraged to take shorter showers and only wash their cars sparingly. But that doesn't apply to the rich. They are using millions of gallons of water and neither the state or local water districts are limiting them in any way. The water bill for this 11.8 million gallon user for the 12 months ending April 1 was $90,000. This guy was only charged 0.76 cents a gallon! No wonder he consumed water excessively; it was so cheap! California is in the fourth year of a water crisis, but the rich are using water as if there were no tomorrow.
Mother Jones nailed the zip code data on this although no water district would reveal their excessive users by name. Privacy trumps the public's right to know who these water gluttons are, but it's not hard to guess. They all come from exclusive neighborhoods. Take San Diego, for instance. There are 92 persons or families who have consumed more than a million gallons, mainly in La Jolla and Carmel Valley. The biggest single user in San Diego was someone who consumed 4.6 million gallons in a year. Anybody want to step forward and admit what a scofflaw you are and try to justify your excessive water usage?
The rest of us are encouraged to stop watering our lawns, even rip them out and put in desert plants. (Take a virtual tour of the water conservation garden at Cuyamaca College led by Ms. Smarty-Plants.) But there are two sets of rules, just like in everything else: one set for the rich and another set for the rest of us. While the water districts have mounted a campaign to get us to cut our water use, these big shots continue their wanton and profligate ways. Hey, after all, it's the drought of the century. But that's only as far as poor and middle class people are concerned. For the rich it's business as usual. Don't ask them to rip out their manicured lawns and private golf courses. When the rest of us are dying of thirst, their lawns will still be green.
While the water agencies have fined hundreds of Californians for watering down their driveways or not replacing broken sprinkler heads, the rich go their merry ways indulging their gargantuan appetites for a boundless supply of agua pura. David Wilson got fined $600 for watering his lawn on the wrong day of the week and letting runoff flow into the street.
But you can bet that the richies are spraying their private orchards with the good stuff, not gray water. Only the best for them. Money talks and the rest of us will be fined for disobeying the water agency's silly rules. Here's a rule for you. Limit their water intake and charge a premium for any water use over what the average household uses.
Angelenos can pump as much water as they want said Martin Adams, senior assistant general manager for the water system at the Department of Water and Power. "There's no ordinance on the books in Los Angeles to go after an individual customer strictly for their use," he said.
San Diego Has Some of the Biggest Water Guzzlers
When it comes to million gallon plus users, San Diego is no slouch. San Diego's biggest user weighing in at 4.6 million gallons lives in La Jolla where Mitt Romney and John McCain have homes. Is it one of them? Two other La Jolla residents consumed 4.5 million gallons. 29 La Jollans consumed more than a million gallons in a year, the third highest number of million gallon users in the state. That's a lot of grass kept green. Or maybe they have orchards and vineyards in their back yards. For sure swimming pools and fountains. Luxury knows no bounds. Just go ahead and gorge yourselves, richies. Us plebes will go on conserving water as best we can so you can enjoy your rich lifestyles.
Carmel Valley had 36 customers who used a million gallons or more. Must be growing tomatoes or avocados in their yards. Or maybe it's those half hour showers from 10 Rainfall shower heads. Even Rancho Bernardo weighed in as having the tenth largest number of million gallon users in the state: 12.
During the 1991 drought it was a matter of public record who the biggest water users were, and they could be identified by name. But guess what happened? Rich people got the law changed to protect themselves so their identities could not be revealed in the future. The law was pushed by the City of Palo Alto citing the privacy concerns of Silicon Valley executives. Think the deck is not stacked against you if you're not rich? This is only one small instance of how rich people are changing the nature of democracy to favor themselves. Magnify that small change in the law by a million and you get some sense of what has happened to turn this democracy into a plutocracy.
In The Divide Mat Taibbi details how America has turned into a nation that has one set of laws for the rich and quite another for the poor. Witness: rich people caught using drugs go to rehab. Poor people, especially poor black people, go to jail. Taibbi wrote this book to demonstrate that unequal wealth is producing grotesquely unequal outcomes in criminal justice. Taibbi shows that, just as income disparities are growing ever wider, so are disparities in who attracts the attention of cops and prosecutors and who doesn’t. Strangely enough, the Divide also applies to water usage.
Water Usage of the Rich and Famous
LA has 92 of the top water users in the state. On average LA's mega-users pumped 4.2 million gallons of water per year apiece. They live in the zip codes of the rich and famous: Hollywood actors and moguls, real estate executives, lawyers, plastic surgeons and such. What they pay for water is just a small blip in their portfolios. Maybe they should pay more, a lot more, just as they should pay a lot more in taxes, especially on the billions held offshore that go tax free.
Bel Air harbors not just the biggest water user in the state but four of California's top five with water usage ranging from 7.4 million gallons to 11.8 million gallons. Beverly Hills zip code, 90210, is not far behind. In the 90210 lives the third most gargantuan appetite for water. His or her consumption is enough for 60 normal families - 8 million gallons per year. This exorbitance and extravagance when it comes to water usage reflects the other aspects of their lives. Too much is never enough!
Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting sought information on the biggest users. At most they got information for zip codes. Here are some of the lame excuses they got: "City does not maintain records", "wanted $2100 for 'programming' to produce data", "by law, data is exempt from disclosure", "district does not have an existing list of big users."
So average Joe Schmoes, you better watch your butt if you wash your car on the wrong day or your sprinkler heads are not in good working order. And just jump in the shower, get wet and jump out again before you soap up. Then feel free to turn the water back on, jump back in and wash the soap off. The other guys behind those tall hedges and locked gates don't have to worry about a thing. They can shower at leisure, and who cares if they leave the water running while they take an important phone call. Their water districts are protecting their identities.