Wealthy Californians find ways to skirt drought regulations

| September 5, 2014

In a lot of ways, forces of nature are great socioeconomic equalizers. A tornado doesn’t care what you do for a living, and a hurricane doesn’t care what kind of car you drive. And yet, as some California residents have found, money actually can trump nature—or at least buy a modicum of comfort and/or fund law flouting.

We recently wrote about the California drought, which has reached “severe” status across nearly the entire state and is now officially one of the worst droughts on record.


Wealthy Californians have found ways around drought regulations. From Alex Brune.

It’s hitting the state hard. They’ve even implemented restrictions on the ubiquitous “Ice Bucket Challenge” raising awareness for ALS, since it is apparently a waste of precious water.

And yet, not everyone is feeling particularly parched. In a recent feature published in Planetizen, reporter James Brausell writes of wealthy Californians who have found ways to preserve their lifestyles amid the drought. Montecito, California, is “an extremely wealthy enclave near Santa Barbara.” In spite of being tasked with the same restrictions applied statewide, Montecito residents continue to use town water for restricted purposes—even though it means coughing up big bucks in penalties.

In May alone, 837 residents paid more than half a million dollars in penalties for illegal use of 13 million gallons of town water.

Of course, not everyone is blatantly ignoring the law. (We’re not trying to get all of Montecito in trouble, here.) Some residents are adhering to the restrictions, and in truth, Montecito has cut its water use by 48 percent. Brausell says that “vast aprons of yellowed lawns” are evidence of compliance.

Still others are technically following the letter of the law but using their disposable income to keep business as usual. Brausell cites writer Anna Louise Bardach’s assertion that Oprah paid to actually ship water into her 40-acre estate, and apparently others are doing the same. (Bardach and Brausell seem to indicate that the water is probably coming from other drought-stricken locations, but it’s not our place to confirm.)

Here’s hoping everyone—wealthy or not—will put the environment first and do their share to get California through the drought.

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Category: Regulations

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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