For readers of publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, one California community has come to represent the dark — yet oh-so-verdant — side of the state’s historic, four-year drought. A place where egregious excess, willful defiance and immaculately manicured lawns rule; a place where arrogance and unchecked irrigation collide; a place where conspicuous consumption overrides common sense; a place that’s given the world cringe-y snippets such as this:
“I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world," said Gay Butler, an interior designer out for a trail ride on her show horse, Bear. "What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”
"It’s an affluent community,"said Ms. de Seroux, who is 62. "People have gardeners, and they just don’t pay attention. They don’t clean their own houses. That’s the way it is here."
Welcome to Rancho Santa Fe.
An exceptionally high-income swath of San Diego County filled with golf courses and gated communities as far as the eye can see, Rancho Santa Fe — former stomping grounds of Bing Crosby, Douglas Fairbanks, Jenny Craig and “Bo” — is indeed a more prodigious consumer of residential water than anywhere else in the state.
It would be unfair to say that everyone living within the confines of “The Ranch,” as it’s referred to locally, is a greedy, self-absorbed water hog. But in a ritzy, Republican-leaning water district where residents used an average of nearly 600 gallons of water per day in September 2014, a figure that’s roughly five times the average for coastal California, it’s hard not to picture an entire town populated by Drought McDucks who go about overwatering their rolling lawns, refilling their humongous swimming pools and allowing their fountains to gush forth with careless abandon as if the drought — and the restrictions that come along with it — simply doesn’t apply to them.
Late last year, the Los Angeles Times described the situation in Rancho Santa Fe best as “Southern California's denial of its dry geography writ large.”
And on the topic of things not applying, residential water usage in Rancho Santa Fe actually went up by 9 percent following California Gov. Jerry Brown’s call in April for a statewide reduction of 25 percent, the first mandatory water cutback in California history.
But things are about to change in Rancho Santa Fe, where a slap on the wrist and a $100 fine, for the most part, hasn’t dissuaded deep-pocketed residents from partaking in verboten water-related activities. And so, for the first time in its history, Rancho Santa Fe will enact water rationing on July 1.
As explained by the Washington Post, each household within the Santa Fe Irrigation District, no matter how palatial, will be issued an “essential allotment for basic indoor needs.” Outdoor water usage must be drastically cut to reach the state’s targets. Households that go over the allotted monthly amount, “could see their already sky-high water bills triple,” notes the Post.
If residents continue to flagrantly disregard the rationing, the district could install flow-restrictors that severely limit the flow of water to a certain property. The district has the power to even switch off the water completely.
Jessica Parks, spokeswoman for the Santa Fe Irrigation district, sums up the new rationing scheme as no longer being a “you can only water on these days ” scenario. “It’s now more of a ‘This is the amount of water you get within this billing period. And if you go over that, there will be high penalties,’ ” she explains.
To further illustrate the general attitude towards water conservation in Rancho Santa Fe (and to troll its readers, as Lloyd Alter at sister TreeHugger points out given that the article now has well over 7,000 comments), the Washington Post opted to include a few choice lines from part-time Rancho Santa Fe resident and conservative talk-radio radio host, Steve Yuhas. He provides the Post with its headline quote: “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
“I’m a conservative, so this is strange, but I defend Barbra Streisand’s right to have a green lawn,” said Yuhas, in reference to the recent and often misguided trend of drought shaming celebrities on social media. “When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna.”
Trolling aside, the Post does balance out the over-the-top eye-rollers from Yuhas and others (“They’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands,” says one interviewee in reference to his garden hose) with remarks from Rancho Santa Fe residents who agree with — and abide by — the water restrictions. Many believe that while the overall situation isn’t ideal in terms of aesthetics, water restrictions are the new reality, a reality that everyone should subscribe to for the sake of the greater good.
“There are people, they aren’t being responsible,” remarked longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident Holly Manion of her more wasteful neighbors. “They’re just thinking of their own lives.”
In addition to finger-wagging, Manion herself has embraced drought-tolerant landscaping at her own 3-acre property where large expanses of thirsty turf have been replaced with succulents and non-water-intensive features. She did, however, leave some grass intact as a place for her dogs to frolic. “It makes me happy when I look at it, because it’s thriving."
Via [Washington Post], [New York Times]
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