The Wet Prince of Bel Air is sucking up millions of gallons of water, and angry residents in drought-stricken California are desperate to find out the identity of the still-unknown water guzzler.
The anonymous person has used more than 11.8 million gallons of water in the past year, all while other residents have made drastic cutbacks on their water usage. The Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered the wasteful resident, who used enough water to sustain 90 homes.
“It’s hard to imagine how someone could use so much water,” says Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager at the State Water Resources Control Board, in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s appalling. What are they doing on that property?”
The city has not identified the Wet Prince of Bel Air, but local residents are furious over the waste of so much precious water.
“It’s selfish and self-indulgent,” says Kate Stensland. “What’s the bottom line? For these people it seems to be: ‘Well, it’s not me, not my world, it has nothing to do with me.’ ”
California has imposed strict regulations on water usage, so much that even washing a car with a hose can lead to a $500 fine. But the Guardian noted that many wealthy residents choose to pay the fines and continue on with their normal water usage, filling pools and watering their expansive lawns.
— Waterkeeper Alliance (@Waterkeeper) November 3, 2015
The drought that has swept over California in recent months has had a dire effect on the environment. The parched landscape has made it easier for wildfires to spread, and trees and other wildlife have been dying for lack of water.
“We have the lowest snow pack in 500 years, which is a third of our water supply,” Gomberg said. “We lost 22 million trees because of the stress brought on from the drought and because the wildfires have been so much worse because there’s no moisture. Fish are dying because the water in the river is not there. Over 10,000 people are out of work because hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland have been left fallow because of the lack of water supply.”
It is even affecting migratory birds that once flew through California. The Sandhill Cranes that once traveled to the northern part of the state are not going elsewhere as wetlands shrink.
“They’re left with fewer and fewer places to go, which will start to have impacts on their population,” Meghan Hertel, who works on habitat issues for the Audubon Society in California, told Reuters. “They can die here from starvation or disease or be weaker for their flight back north.”
California drought shrinks winter digs for migratory birds https://t.co/7zFepYV5U8 pic.twitter.com/SqTYIYaDHa
— Ecology Pictures (@EI_EcoPictures) November 7, 2015
There are a number of factors contributing to the drought, experts say. A report from the New York Times noted that climate change and global warming are playing a role, with scientists estimating that the warming has worsened the drought situation in California by 15 to 20 percent.
Many of the angry Bel Air residents are now trying to find the water thief on their own. The Los Angeles Times noted that a so-called “drought posse” has formed to study the flow of water through gutters, even employing drones in an attempt to find who is using all the water.
But some local residents believe the talk of a Wet Prince of Bel Air is overblown, and that the data could be incorrect. Some told the Guardian they believe it is not one single person, but instead several people. Either way, such a high total stands out in a state where residents and municipalities alike are making painful sacrifices to save water.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images]