As millions of California residents cut back on water use to fight the drought, one homeowner has apparently not received the memo.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Revealnews.org, one home in Bel Air used a whopping 11.8 million gallons of water in one year, good enough to make the home the largest known residential water user in the state.
For perspective, one million gallons is enough water to serve the needs of eight households for a year, making the near-12 million gallons used by the Bel Air home enough to serve the needs of roughly 100 households. RevealNews estimates the home spent more than $90,000 on its water bill last year.
The website’s investigation found that 365 households in California, most located in posh areas of Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area, had used more than one million gallons of water each last year. Of those, 73 used more than three million gallons, and 14 used more than six million gallons. Water agencies have reportedly refused to identify the so-called “mega-users,” citing privacy concerns.
Meanwhile, the rest of the state has drastically cut its water use to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s order for a mandatory statewide reduction of 25 percent by early next year. On Thursday, the State Water Resources Control Board announced California had met Brown’s target for a third straight month in August, following solid cuts in July and June.
But million-gallon guzzlers are not playing by the same rules as everyone else. Los Angeles homeowner David Wilson told RevealNews that he recently received a $600 ticket for watering his lawn on the wrong day of the week. While Wilson says a sprinkler malfunction was responsible, his name and address were reportedly publicized by the city as part of an effort to identify water waters.
“That’s asinine,” Wilson told RevealNews when shown a list of the number of California’s mega-users. “These are the people that people should be going after.”
“Looking at the list that you’ve provided….I’m actually shocked by the amount of water that can be used in a single-family residence,” Natural Resources Defense Council analyst Tracy Quinn told the outlet. “It’s appalling.”
In Los Angeles, there is little that water agencies can do to force these mega-users to cut back, because, as Department of Water and Power assistant general manager Martin Adams told RevealNews, “there’s no ordinance on the books in L.A. to go after an individual customer strictly for their use.”
However, at least two water agencies–one in Oakland and another in the Coachella Valley–have recently begun imposing fees for excessive water use. Penalties in Oakland begin when a customer pumps over 359,000 gallons of water in a year.
If there’s a reason water agencies won’t name the state’s biggest wasters, perhaps another Center for Investigative Reporting report from last year holds the answer: in 2013, at least 26 public officials, including water and utility officials, used more than double the amount of water the average household uses.