The drought in the American West is becoming more desperate by the day, and many Californians are under water restrictions. But plenty of celebrities are continuing to use all the water they want, according to an investigation from CBS News Los Angeles.
CBS2 looked at some of the worst water-use culprits in the area and found, unsurprisingly, that many are A-listers who live in huge mansions in and around the Calabasas area. CBS2 reporters found that many celebrity households were way over their assigned water budgets. Kourtney Kardashian’s household used 245% of its water budget for May, according to water records obtained by the team. Action movie star Sylvester Stallone’s household, which is in the Hidden Hills area, used a whopping 351% of its allotted water budget in May. (Stalone’s lawyer, Marty Singer, said in a statement to CBS2 that the property needed the extra water to maintain “more than 500 mature trees on the property, including innumerable fruit trees as well as pine trees.”) Other celebrities who have gone over budget include Terry Mandel, the wife of comedian Howie Mandel, and rapper The Game, according to CBS2.
Households that are found surpassing their water budget by more than 200% in the last two months are fined, but financial penalties are hardly much of a punishment for millionaires. “We don’t think you can just buy your way out of the drought. Everyone needs to do their part. This is very serious,” Joe McDermott, who works with the Las Virgenes Water District, told CBS2.
There’s another potential tool in California’s ongoing effort to reduce water consumption. It’s a small disk that is placed in a water meter pipe and slows down water flow to about a gallon a minute. It’s reserved for offenders who go over their water budget for four months or more. The many celebrities called out in the CBS2 report are on their way to getting a disk, and some already had one installed, including rapper Nas, and a home registered under the Estate of Michael Jackson also had a restricter for two weeks. Comedian and actor Kevin Hart had one placed, but it was removed from the pipe after about two weeks.
Clean water activist Erin Brockovich (yes, the Erin from the Julia Roberts film), was also on the water overuse list. But she is reportedly switching to resistant plants and even installing artificial turf on her property alongside lowering her water usage. McDermott said that some celebrities have asked to have it removed and have even offered to pay extra to have the restricting disk off of their water meter pipe. “It’s not fair,” he told CBS2 reporters.
Regular Los Angeles residents who cannot buy their way out of a drought have actually stepped up to lower their water consumption. They’ve done so well that the city’s water usage dropped 9% this past June, according to the LA Times. This was the lowest Los Angeles water use for any June on record. Many front lawns throughout the city are dusty and brown without their usual watering schedule, as people sacrifice to support the water conservation effort.
Water overuse has repercussions for millions of people. Early last month, officials expressed concerns that alarmingly low water levels in the state’s largest reservoirs can eventually strain some energy sources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, hydropower under drought conditions would make up only 8% of the state’s total power generation, down from the usual 15%. This spring, state residents were asked to voluntarily reduce their water consumption, and by June, officials across Southern California implemented restrictions that included limiting outdoor watering to only one day a week.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of California is experiencing extreme drought and severe drought conditions this week, and bodies of water around the state continue to reach concerning lows. Usually, water levels in reservoirs across the state hover around 66% capacity, but the LA Times reports that the average water level is now only 50%.