California is well into its fourth year of drought, which experts say is the worst the state has seen in 1,200 years.
But many residents haven’t changed their water usage in response to the crisis.
The situation so bad, and state government fines to cities so steep, that some municipalities have resorted to shaming customers who flagrantly waste water.
Actress and comedian Amy Poehler is the latest high-profile resident outed by the city of Beverly Hills, according to Matt Stevens at the Los Angeles Times.
Poehler’s home in Beverly Hills allegedly used about 170,000 gallons from May 14 through July 14, 2015 — roughly 12,000 gallons per day. The average LA resident, meanwhile, uses about 196 gallons daily.
But if you think Poehler’s reported water use is bad, prepare yourself.
Someone in Bel Air, the exclusive West LA neighbourhood that’s been home to celebrities from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to Madonna and Adam Sandler, used close to 12 million gallons of water in a single year, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
That’s 30,000 gallons of water each day, or enough water for roughly 90 regular-sized homes.
It’s also the equivalent of flushing 400 toilets every hour, running two showers constantly, and having enough left over to water the lawn, according to The New York Times.
Los Angeles hasn’t revealed the identity of the person who’s being called the “Wet Prince of Bel Air” — the San Diego Union-Tribune reports “drought posses” have searched in vain for the user — but estimates from CIR put their total water bill, measured for the year ending April 1, 2015, at roughly $90,000.
To put that in perspective, the average household in the region forks over about $780 a year, Gary Breaux, chief financial officer of the region’s water district, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, recently told CNBC.
By a rough estimate (and not taking into base fees), the Wet Prince, then, is using 115 times the normal amount.
Why some excessive use is a problem for everyone
As the NYTimes points out, the burden of excessive water use is not being borne equally in California.
In fact, the only reason the city, which has mandated a cutback in water use of 16%, is meeting its goals is thanks to some households that are actually conserving. Meanwhile, the city’s top water users — many of whom own property with multiple pools, vast, lush lawns, and decorative fountains and waterfalls — face no fines.
This is all possible because of the state’s complex approach to water. California has mandated that all districts cut back water use by “up to 36%,” but it oversees 400 separate water districts. And each one gets to come up with its own water-conservation regulations.
Some utilities are slamming users that go over their monthly water allotment with “drought surcharges” which can reach hundreds of dollars, according to the NYTimes.
Others — like the one that oversees the Wet Prince — are doing nothing, and it remains to be seen if publicly shaming Poehler and other affluent water users actually works.