Should California rich be able to use as much water as they can afford?

There's a serious drought in California, largely the result of government action in saving fish species rather than building additional infrastructure.  Now government in that state has ordered severe restrictions on the use of outdoor sprinkling, causing most of the lawns and gardens in California to shrivel and die.

But many of California's wealthy citizens don't think those restrictions apply to them.  They can afford the $800-a-month water bills and don't see a need to stop the sprinklers.

One such community is Rancho Sante Fe, where residents increased their water usage by 9% following the announcement by Governor Jerry Brown of a 25% cutback. 

Washington Post:

But a moment of truth is at hand for Yuhas and his neighbors, and all of California will be watching: On July 1, for the first time in its 92-year history, Rancho Santa Fe will be subject to water rationing.

“It’s no longer a ‘You can only water on these days’ ” situation, said Jessica Parks, spokeswoman for the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which provides water service to Rancho Santa Fe and other parts of San Diego County. “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.’ ”

So far, the community’s 3,100 residents have not felt the wrath of the water police. Authorities have issued only three citations for violations of a first round of rather mild water restrictions announced last fall. In a place where the median income is $189,000, where PGA legend Phil Mickelson once requested a separate water meter for his chipping greens, where financier Ralph Whitworth last month paid the Rolling Stones $2 million to play at a local bar, the fine, at $100, was less than intimidating.

All that is about to change, however. Under the new rules, each household will be assigned an essential allotment for basic indoor needs. Any additional usage — sprinklers, fountains, swimming pools — must be slashed by nearly half for the district to meet state-mandated targets.

Residents who exceed their allotment could see their already sky-high water bills triple. And for ultra-wealthy customers undeterred by financial penalties, the district reserves the right to install flow restrictors — quarter-size disks that make it difficult to, say, shower and do a load of laundry at the same time.

In extreme cases, the district could shut off the tap altogether.

Not surprisingly, residents are upset at being singled out.  Their arguments for being able to use as much water as they can afford appear to be falling on deaf ears:

“California used to be the land of opportunity and freedom,” Barbre said. “It’s slowly becoming the land of one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives.”

Jurgen Gramckow, a sod farmer north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, agrees. He likens the freedom to buy water to the freedom to buy gasoline.

“Some people have a Prius; others have a Suburban,” Gramckow said. “Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.”

Yuhas, who hosts a conservative talk-radio show, abhors the culture of “drought-shaming” that has developed here since the drought began four years ago, especially the aerial shots of lavish lawns targeted for derision on the local TV news.

“I’m a conservative, so this is strange, but I defend Barbra Streisand’s right to have a green lawn,” said Yuhas, who splits his time between Rancho Santa Fe and Los Angeles. “When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna.”

The argument is advanced that on some of these huge estates, dozens of houses could be built.  In effect, the water usage by one family, no matter how high, is still less than would be normal if the property were located somewhere else.

With water restrictions now including farmland, the state's massive agricultural sector is in danger.  Is a green lawn worth the damage to the ag industry?  I don't think many Californians sympathize with the rich who feel entitled to more water than the average citizen.  They may be able to afford it, but does that make it right? 

There's a serious drought in California, largely the result of government action in saving fish species rather than building additional infrastructure.  Now government in that state has ordered severe restrictions on the use of outdoor sprinkling, causing most of the lawns and gardens in California to shrivel and die.

But many of California's wealthy citizens don't think those restrictions apply to them.  They can afford the $800-a-month water bills and don't see a need to stop the sprinklers.

One such community is Rancho Sante Fe, where residents increased their water usage by 9% following the announcement by Governor Jerry Brown of a 25% cutback. 

Washington Post:

But a moment of truth is at hand for Yuhas and his neighbors, and all of California will be watching: On July 1, for the first time in its 92-year history, Rancho Santa Fe will be subject to water rationing.

“It’s no longer a ‘You can only water on these days’ ” situation, said Jessica Parks, spokeswoman for the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which provides water service to Rancho Santa Fe and other parts of San Diego County. “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.’ ”

So far, the community’s 3,100 residents have not felt the wrath of the water police. Authorities have issued only three citations for violations of a first round of rather mild water restrictions announced last fall. In a place where the median income is $189,000, where PGA legend Phil Mickelson once requested a separate water meter for his chipping greens, where financier Ralph Whitworth last month paid the Rolling Stones $2 million to play at a local bar, the fine, at $100, was less than intimidating.

All that is about to change, however. Under the new rules, each household will be assigned an essential allotment for basic indoor needs. Any additional usage — sprinklers, fountains, swimming pools — must be slashed by nearly half for the district to meet state-mandated targets.

Residents who exceed their allotment could see their already sky-high water bills triple. And for ultra-wealthy customers undeterred by financial penalties, the district reserves the right to install flow restrictors — quarter-size disks that make it difficult to, say, shower and do a load of laundry at the same time.

In extreme cases, the district could shut off the tap altogether.

Not surprisingly, residents are upset at being singled out.  Their arguments for being able to use as much water as they can afford appear to be falling on deaf ears:

“California used to be the land of opportunity and freedom,” Barbre said. “It’s slowly becoming the land of one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives.”

Jurgen Gramckow, a sod farmer north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, agrees. He likens the freedom to buy water to the freedom to buy gasoline.

“Some people have a Prius; others have a Suburban,” Gramckow said. “Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.”

Yuhas, who hosts a conservative talk-radio show, abhors the culture of “drought-shaming” that has developed here since the drought began four years ago, especially the aerial shots of lavish lawns targeted for derision on the local TV news.

“I’m a conservative, so this is strange, but I defend Barbra Streisand’s right to have a green lawn,” said Yuhas, who splits his time between Rancho Santa Fe and Los Angeles. “When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna.”

The argument is advanced that on some of these huge estates, dozens of houses could be built.  In effect, the water usage by one family, no matter how high, is still less than would be normal if the property were located somewhere else.

With water restrictions now including farmland, the state's massive agricultural sector is in danger.  Is a green lawn worth the damage to the ag industry?  I don't think many Californians sympathize with the rich who feel entitled to more water than the average citizen.  They may be able to afford it, but does that make it right?