By now, most everyone in the country has heard at least something about California’s serious water shortage: the snow pack is paper thin, reservoirs are way down, and the governor has ordered a 25 percent cut in consumption.
But in an article published on April 5, 2015, The Los Angeles Times finds that the drought hasn’t put much of a dent in water consumption in wealthier communities, and some residents of these communities may not understand the depth of the problem.
In upscale communities such as La CaÃ±ada Flintridge, Newport Beach, and Malibu, daily per capita consumption topped 150 gallons in January, while in Santa Ana it was just 38 gallons a day, the newspaper reported.
In Los Angeles, where daily water use was 70 gallons per person, a UCLA study found that over a 10-year period, wealthy neighborhoods used three times as much water as everyone else.
“The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich,” Stephanie Pincetl, who worked on the study, told the newspaper. Wealthy people, she added, are “lacking a sense that we are all in this together.”
Communities increase the pressure for conservation
In the wake of Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement, officials in Beverly Hills said they would introduce stricter controls on water, and some residents interviewed by the newspaper had devised their own ways of cutting back. One 76-year-old woman, for example, said she used the cold water running as the shower heated up to water her plants. When there were no guests in the house, she added, she didn’t always flush the toilet.
Some residents were replacing real turf with artificial grass, as one of the governor’s recommendations had suggested, and practices such as watering roadside vegetation were curtailed.
One 53-year-old Newport Beach resident was caught by a neighbor watering a small strip of grass in front of his house. Reported to the local water board, the man was embarrassed and angry, but he’s now following the situation more closely and said he would take out the grass if things don’t improve.
National Public Radio reports that water smart meters have been useful in tracking down flagrant water use. In Long Beach, a McDonald’s restaurant paid the first city fine — $800 — after city workers alerted by meter readings videotaped sprinklers running in the middle of the night.
But there will be challenges, too. A man interviewed at a sidewalk cafe in Beverly Hills said he’s not using as much water to brush his teeth as he used to, but he still had to consider his spa tub and his lemon and orange trees.
“This is America,” he told the newspaper. “You gotta live it up a little bit, right?”
The governor’s orders don’t apply to agriculture, which uses 80 percent of the state’s water, The Indepedent reported. California produces nearly half the fruit, vegetables, and nuts in the country, the report says, and farmers have already taken a $1.5 billion hit from the drought. Some 500,000 acres of agricultural land has gone fallow.