Bel Air, the ultra-ritzy Westside Los Angeles enclave where the privacy hedges are high and the property values are even higher, is home — and has been home to — more than just a few impressive surnames: Taylor, Reagan, Garland, Hitchcock, Musk, Gabor, Banks and the list goes on.
Nestled into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains on the north side of fabled Sunset Boulevard, Bel Air was also recently identified as being home to a famous resident of a different and decidedly less impressive kind: drought-stricken California’s top residential water hog.
While the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) isn’t naming names or listing addresses, it has made public the jaw-dropping amount of water that someone in Bel Air’s 90077 zip code consumed over a 12-month span ending in April 2015: 11.8 million gallons. That’s roughly the same amount of water used each year by 90 average L.A. households or roughly the same amount needed to fill 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Simply put, it's insane.
And the estimated amount of dough forked over for the privilege of flagrantly wasting water in a historically parched state? Under the LADWP’s standard water rates, California’s most prodigious water user is spending roughly $90,000 each year.
And keep in mind this is a private, residential utility customer living in Bel Air — not a leaky faucet museum, a celebrity almond farm or the Bel-Air Country Club. Presumably, a heft of the insane amount of H2O consumed at this single-family residence is used to maintain a lush and immaculately groomed lawn. That is, unless someone in Bel Air really does have 18 Olympic-size swimming pools.
And as it turns out, Bel Air’s water-guzzler extraordinaire is in good — well, bad — company.
Using publicly available LADWP data, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has determined that California’s second top known residential water customer also lives on the storied streets of Bel Air.
This “wet prince” used just short of 10 million gallons over a year-long period. In fact, pretty much every single one of California’s top 10 residential water guzzlers call Bel Air or LA's other two famously well-heeled “B’s” — Brentwood and Beverly Hills — home. Must be something in the water, so to speak.
Outside of Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills, the number nine thirstiest spot (roughly 7 million gallons annually) is held by a resident of Westwood, a larger neighborhood to the immediate southwest of Bel Air that’s home to the campus of UCLA and super-swank Holmby Hills, which, together with Bel Air and Beverly Hills, make up L.A's hyper-affluent "Platinum Triangle."
Mega-usage outside of L.A.'s waterlogged Platinum Triangle
Looking outside of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Los Angeles, home to a whopping 100 1 million-gallon-plus water customers, the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay comes in second in the state. Like L.A., the East Bay, consisting of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is home to 100 so-called “mega-users."
However, the East Bay’s greediest water hog isn’t so greedy at all compared to his or her improvident compadres in L.A. as they consumed a mere 3.5 million gallons over a yearlong period (63rd in the state). While the number of top users in both Los Angeles and the East Bay is the same, the average amount used by these costumers is dramatically different: 1.45 million gallons per year for the typical East Bay gorger versus an average of 4.26 million gallons for the water-lush elite of L.A.
Trailing behind the East Bay and Los Angeles, San Diego is home to 92 million-gallon-plus customers including California’s 27th top user at 4.6 millions gallons of water per year.
The city of San Francisco is completely devoid of residential customers who use in excess of 1 million gallons of water annually. All those naughty PSAs must have paid off. San Francisco's top water customer (number 462 statewide) does come awful close to reaching the 1 million mark, though, having gobbled up an impressive 781,000 gallons of wet stuff in a year.
While eight of the state’s 25 largest water districts, including those named above, agreed to provide the CIR with usage data (the names and addresses of specific customers withheld for privacy reasons), the other 14 major districts including Fresno and Sacramento refused to furnish data of any sort.
In total, there are 365 known mega-users throughout California.
Gluttons go unpunished
Despite consuming an ungodly amount of water during a nearly 5-year drought, California’s known mega-users aren’t exactly doing anything illegal. Reprehensible, sure, but there are no statewide laws (as of yet) that penalize homeowners for surpassing the million-gallon-plus mark. The sky’s the limit, as long as the bills are paid in full and on time.
“There’s no ordinance on the books in Los Angeles to go after an individual customer strictly for their use,” Martin Adams, a senior assistant general manager for the water system at the LADWP, clarifies to the CIR.
As noted by the CIR, only two California water agencies, one in Oakland and the other in the Coachella Valley, have started to penalize customers whose exorbitant water use could qualify as borderline reckless. In districts such as Los Angeles, homeowners are slapped with violations only when caught wet-handed by authorities partaking in verboten activities like operating a non-recirculating decorative water feature or clearing off a driveway with a garden hose. Those caught ignoring these restrictions risk having their names and addresses made public.
David Wilson is one such Los Angeles resident who has been penalized for ignoring mandatory water restrictions. (He blames sprinkler malfunction for watering-on-the-wrong-day-of-the-week fines totaling $600).
“That’s asinine. These are the people that people should be going after,” Wilson responded when CIR investigators presented him with the list of L.A.’s anonymous mega-users. “Is this 11 million gallons? How do they even do that?”
What do you think? Should California’s most extravagant water users, like those in Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills, be pursued and penalized for the sheer amount of water that they consume on an annual basis?
Or should the privacy veil be lifted and the names of these individuals be made public just as it with those whose water-wasting crimes don’t necessarily involve millions upon millions of gallons of water?
Via [LAist] via [Reveal]