As Many Californians Cut Back During Drought, One Bel Air Resident Used 11.8 Million Gallons Of Water Last Year

| by Jared Keever
Sprinkler and lawnSprinkler and lawn

With California four years into the worst drought in its recorded history, one resident of the tony Los Angeles neighborhood, Bel Air, has used 11.8 million gallons of water in a single year. 

Dubbed the “Wet Prince of Bel Air” by The Center For Investigative Reporting’s Reveal News, no one is sure just who he or she is. 

The city of Los Angeles won’t identify the home owner, Reveal reports. 

That some in Californians are using such huge amounts of water — reportedly enough for 90 homes — while others are drastically cutting back in order to avoid stiff penalties simply isn’t fair, according to Debbie Alberts who spoke recently with The New York Times. 

Alberts, whose husband is disabled and doesn’t work, supports her two-child family on a $22,000 salary. She lives about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. She has, according to The Times, ripped out half the lawn of her Apple Valley home and even given up on taking daily showers to cut her family’s water usage in half. Still, her last water bill, which covered a two-month usage period, carried a $79.66 surcharge, bringing the total above $330. 

“It’s impossible to get under the line,” she said. “We wash clothes once a week. We flush every third time. Sometimes we go to the laundromat because we’re afraid.”

365 households in California used more than a million gallons of water during the recording year that ended in April. Most of them live the state’s exclusive neighborhoods like San Diego’s La Jolla beachfront community or Contra Costa County, near San Francisco. But the biggest offenders, appear to live in the affluent neighborhoods of Los Angeles, with about 100 “mega-users” averaging over 4.2 million gallons per household.

The Los Angeles water agency, and others in the state, all refuse to release the names of the big users, reportedly citing privacy concerns. 

In Los Angeles, the big water guzzlers get away with it, according to The Times, because the city has only a 16 percent overall mandated reduction in usage, and other residents have done such a good job of cutting back that there is no need to go after the big offenders. 

Barb Stanton, the mayor pro tem of Apple Valley, said that is a mark of a flawed system.

“They have all this disposable income, and they’re not conserving at all,” she said. “We’re cutting back, and yet we’re being penalized. We have seniors on fixed incomes appealing to us — they don’t know how they’re going to pay their water bills.”

Stanton told The Times that she is also paying a surcharge and, like Alberts, has torn out her lawn, replacing it with rocks. 

“How much more can I do?” she said. “I let my trees die.”

Sources: Reveal News, The New York Times

Photo credit: Shaylor/Flickr