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California’s 1-Percenters Are Flush With Water as Rest of the State Remains Parched

From Alternet:

Celebrities and moguls aren’t doing without while the region suffers from a disastrous drought.

By Cliff Weathers
August 27, 2014

While most of California worries, cuts back and braces for the worst of this epic drought, the Golden State’s 1-percenters are staying flush with water. While some are obeying public water restrictions and having it shipped in by the truckload to their mansions in the tony exurbs of Santa Barbara County, others are just breaking the rules and paying hefty fines for not obeying local water restrictions.

Politico reports that tanker trucks filled with water make routine deliveries to the grand manors of the rich and famous, carting up to 5,000 gallons of water to the region’s wealthiest residents. The beltway newspaper reports that Oprah Winfrey, one of Montecito’s richest residents, gets water deliveries on a regular basis to keep things flowing at her 40-acre estate. Oprah, whose water bill from the Montecito Water District was almost $125,000 last year, has cut her municipal water use in half this year, but she still needs massive deliveries of H2O to make it work.

Montecito Journal columnist Bob Hazard, says he would not be surprised if some of the town’s wealthiest are “paying as much as $15,000 a month for trucked-in water.”

Still, not all Montecito residents are relying on water shipments to make up the difference. They are just ignoring the restrictions.

More than 800 consumers in the water district have already been hit with penalties totaling more than $500,000 altogether, which means they wasted some 13 million gallons of public water. One homeowner was reportedly hit with a $30,000 fine. And it’s not only homeowners who are pirating the trickle of water the area gets from its aquifer; the Biltmore Four Seasons Hotel was hit with a hefty fine of nearly $50,000. According to Politico, there will be about $4 million in fines levied to Montecito Water District users this year.

Meanwhile, California’s drought has taken a significant turn for the worse. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a government-funded weekly map of drought conditions, reports that 98% of the state is experiencing a severe to exceptional drought, with 58% suffering from the harshest of drought conditions. All the state has been suffering from drought conditions since May, the first time in 15 years.

In July, California imposed statewide water-use regulations for the first time. State regulators approved stringent measures limiting outdoor water, including $500 fines for using an outdoor hose without a shut-off nozzle.

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