Drought shaming targets wealthy California water wasters who have lush lawns

Michael Walsh

Rich and famous Californians are in hot water for their lush green lawns.

Class-conscious social media users are taking aim at wealthy water wasters as the Golden State struggles in the fourth year of a devastating drought.

The green, tech-savvy activists behind #droughtshaming are not just calling out their profligate neighbors — celebrities are in their crosshairs as well.

The tweets are often accompanied by aerial photos showing fields of dead, brown grass punctuated by the rich, verdant lawns of expensive estates.

The New York Post got involved by criticizing various celebrities for allegedly running the tap too long, including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Hugh Hefner and others. 

“It’s inescapable that effective curtailment of water consumption, which is necessitated by this drought, is going to mean reduced outdoor water use,” Edward Osann, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program, said in an interview with Yahoo News.

Earlier this month, on May 5, the State Water Resources Control Board unanimously approved emergency regulations that require some communities to cut back their water usage by up to 36 percent. Communities that fail to meet the new restrictions risk heavy fines. 

“I think it was done with an eye toward fairness and practicality. The areas with the highest consumption of water have the greatest opportunity to reduce that,” Osann said.

Gov. Jerry Brown mandated that the state’s water use be reduced by 25 percent. This is not the first time the board voted to expand emergency regulations.

Reducing the water used on outdoor landscaping is one of its main goals. 

Turf Terminators, an independent water-saving company, is offering to replace anyone’s lawn with a “California friendly landscape” for free.

This new landscape can save an average resident about $2,200 per year in water and lawn care bills, according to the company, while reducing his or her water consumption. Other residents have replaced their lawns with artificial turf.

Turf Terminators promotes its services by sharing pictures of its mascot, a smiling water drop, beside vibrant lawns that clearly require regular watering to thrive. 

The current emergency regulations do not apply to California’s agricultural sector, which reportedly uses 80 percent of the state’s human-related consumption, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Environmentalists fear that this exemption could provide a loophole for wealthy homeowners with sprawling lawns that include some sort of garden.

Meanwhile, protesters are demanding that Nestlé Waters stop bottling perfectly good California water during a drought of historic proportions.

The Courage Campaign’s online petition takes issue with the fact that Nestlé extracts water from natural springs throughout the state, including in drought-stricken areas.

“While California is facing record drought conditions, it is unconscionable that Nestlé would continue to bottle the state’s precious water, export it, and sell it for profit,” the petition reads. “As a consumer and concerned citizen, I call on you to immediately stop Nestlé’s bottling operations in California.”

Nestlé has defended itself against such criticism, arguing its water is used “efficiently and effectively” and that “people need to drink water."

The multinational food and beverage company, which is headquartered in Switzerland, says that it uses less than 1 billion gallons of water in all its California operations.

“Closing our operations or reducing the amount of water we withdraw significantly won’t fix the drought,” Nestlé argues.

Judging from this quote and the aforementioned green lawns, the argument that drastic changes in the actions of one company or person would not single-handedly solve the problem appears to be commonplace — from wealthy homeowners to bottled-water manufacturers. 

Nestlé USA representatives did not respond to calls from Yahoo News for comment. 

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