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Californians Sneaking in Extra Water

Some communities limit users to a certain number of gallons a day, while others ask for a percentage reduction based on previous usage amounts. 

| BY Kent McDill

Water rationing in California is now prevalent in numerous small and mid-size communities in Central and Northern California.

Now it is about to hit San Francisco as well.

The San Francisco Public Utilizes commission is considering a proposal to enforce a cut in water usage by 10 percent for the area’s biggest users, mainly large corporate or public landowners who use water to keep lawns and landscaping green.

Other communities are rationing water to 50 gallons a day per person, and charging up to $500 a day for over usage. Some communities are limiting watering of lawns to two days a week and sending out police officers to monitor suspected night-time usage on off-days.

All of this response to the area’s worst drought in decades has produced a new commodity and industry: black market water.

Politico reports that in Montecito, the wealthiest suburb in Santa Barbara County, water trucks are seen delivering tanks full of water from an unknown source at the cost of about $80 per 748 gallons of water, am amount which would cost $7 if pumped from the city water supply.

 Oprah Winfrey, who has been lauded by local water officials for the amount she has cut her public water usage on her Montecito estate, receives daily deliveries of water from water trucks, according to Politico.

The source of that water is unknown.

The problem is that almost all of the water that “naturally’’ flows to Central California is brought in from the Colorado River at great length and expense. The Colorado itself, which services communities from its mouth in Colorado all the way into Mexico, is itself running dry from over-siphoning to communities located in desert or semi-desert areas.

While lower and middle-income families are seeing their water rationed or experiencing low water pressure, wealthier homes are finding other sources of water, and according to Politco, there isn’t a policing system to determine where that water is coming from.

Water rationing is in place in Irvine, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and Sacramento. New pricing structures are being considered in other California communities to allow larger properties to pay more, legally, to get the water they think they need.

Homes and businesses would have a water budget placed upon them by water districts that use aerial photography and satellite reports to determine the proper and efficient water usage for each property.

Montecito reported 837 residents or businesses were fined $532,000 for excessive water usage from the public system. The Biltmore Four Seasons hotel used one million gallons in excess of their allotment in one month and paid $48,000.

Retired hotel CEO Bob Hazard, who writes a news column for the Montecito Journal, told Politco he would not be surprised to find that some of the town’s citizens “pay as much as $15,000 a month for trucked-in water.”

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is considering hiring 10 temporary employees to police water usage in Silicon Valley, while the Los Angeles Water District just hired three new water police to bring the total of officers dedicated to patrolling water usage to four.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.