Photo (cc) by Steve A Johnson
California is dry. Now in its fourth consecutive year of drought, the Golden State is suffering. Some of its lakes have dried up, its farmers are bracing themselves for $2 billion in losses and many residents’ and businesses’ previously beautiful green grasses are now dead and brown or replaced with artificial turf.
But you would have no idea that California is in a drought if you saw the bill for the biggest known residential water customer in the state.
Reveal, a website run by the Center for Investigative Reporting, recently found that one home in an exclusive Bel Air neighborhood in Los Angeles is guzzling up a mind-boggling 11.8 million gallons of water a year. To put that into perspective, that’s enough water to supply about 90 average households for a year, or to fill about 1.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools every month.
Although the city of L.A. won’t identify the big water hog, Reveal said with that usage, the water bill for the home likely topped $90,000 for the year.
Despite the drought, some affluent Californians still use a staggering amount of water without any consequences except a hefty water bill. Four of the five biggest residential water hogs in the Golden State live in Bel Air. Reveal said:
In all, 365 California households pumped more than 1 million gallons of water apiece during the year ending in April, the [urban water agency] records show.
One million gallons is enough for eight families for a year, according to a 2011 state estimate, and many of California’s mega-users pumped far more than that. Of the total, 73 homes used more than 3 million gallons apiece, and another 14 used more than 6 million.
These mega-users live in San Diego’s posh La Jolla beachfront community, in affluent suburbs of Contra Costa County in the Bay Area and especially in Los Angeles’ wealthy neighborhoods.
Although California’s biggest residential water users continue to guzzle water with seemingly reckless abandon, hundreds of other Californians have been fined for water offenses such as hosing down their driveway or failing to fix a broken sprinkler head, Reveal said.
“There’s no ordinance on the books in Los Angeles to go after an individual customer strictly for their use,” Martin Adams, senior assistant general manager for the water system at the Department of Water and Power, told Reveal in an interview.
Although utility data used to be a matter of public record in California, utility companies now have the legal right to keep customers’ names and information secret unless the utility determines that the disclosure is in the public interest.
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