By Ethan Huff
Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. This is quickly becoming the new state motto in California, where epic drought conditions are affecting even the highest echelons of society, including ultra-rich areas near Santa Barbara where celebrities, CEOs, and other “one-percenters” are now having to truck in water from unknown sources just to keep their laundry washed and their dishes clean.
We’re no longer talking about extravagant things like swimming pools and polo fields, many of which are now dry, brown and decaying in the plush Santa Barbara suburb of Montecito. No, one of the richest zip codes in the entire U.S. is struggling just to maintain enough water for its residents to live, according to reports.
Water has become such a scarce commodity throughout the region that it may even be more valuable than gold, at this point. The Telegraph reports that it is now a regular occurrence for large tanker trucks to be seen trudging up and down the coastal enclave, delivering fresh supplies of water from… somewhere, the sources of which are mostly undisclosed.
Montecito fining residents millions for using too much water
It may seem primitive, but with fines ranging in the tens of thousands up into the millions, it makes sense for the well-to-do to ship their water in from elsewhere rather than pay the piper. A recent Politico report highlights how TV talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, for instance, racked up $125,000 in charges last year for using too much water at one of her lavish estates. And others, according to The Telegraph, have faced similar fines for excessive use during a single month.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you run out of water you’re screwed. It’s a great leveler,” stated Larry Reiche, an area resident, as quoted by The Telegraph. “Gone are the days in California when you could throw water around. This is a desert and people have to realise if we run out of water it’s going to return to desert.”
Reiche’s property is small compared to the Pat Nesbitt’s 71-acre estate, complete with a polo field. One of the heavier users in the area, Nesbitt’s water allocation was cut by more than 90 percent, meaning he faces fines of up to $140,000 per month if he consumes in excess of this. As a result, he has had to make some major lifestyle changes.
“We cut back,” he told The Telegraph. “We don’t water anything any more. The polo field is brown. We are still able to play but it doesn’t play as good.”
Are Montecito residents shipping in stolen water?
Such fines make it cost-prohibitive to use municipal water, even for the rich, which is why many Montecito residents are now paying up to $80 per unit of water shipped in on mystery trucks. A unit is the equivalent of about 748 gallons, a quantity that under normal conditions would only cost about $7.00 from the city.
But nobody knows where this water is coming from, at least not officially. Meanwhile, areas of California’s Central Valley near Fresno, for instance, have been seeing surges in water thefts from trucks with “mounted tanks,” according to The Daily Mail. Though these trucks differ from the types of tanker trucks delivering water to Montecito residents, the question remains as to where this possibly stolen water is coming from.
“California suffers not having a coherent statewide water management policy… [and] a severely antiquated patchwork water storage and delivery system,” wrote one Politico commenter about the dilemma.
“Many families in the Central Valley region have no water, completely shutoff, not even a trickle from a kitchen faucet. Meanwhile, the wealthy are using millions of gallons of water to keep their private estate ducks quacking happy.”
Sources for this article include: