California drought
The Colorado River Aqueduct in Hayfield Lake, California. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson


California is in the middle of its fourth year of drought. Experts say it’s the worst the state has seen in 1,200 years.

Dwindling reservoirs, shrinking lakes, and dried-up farm fields are everywhere — and the drought shows no sign of stopping.

The state’s snowpack, which typically provides about one-third of the water for its farms and residents, remains at its lowest level in history.

Still, many Californians are using virtually the same amount of water they were using before the drought began.

And one user stands out.

Someone in Bel Air, the exclusive West LA neighborhood that’s been home to celebrities from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to Madonna and Adam Sandler, used close to 12 million gallons of water in a single year, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

That’s 30,000 gallons of water each day, or enough water to power roughly 90 regular-sized homes.

It’s also the equivalent of flushing 400 toilets every hour, running two showers constantly, and having enough left over to water the lawn, according to The New York Times.

Los Angeles hasn’t revealed the identity of the person who’s being called the “Wet Prince of Bel Air,” but estimates from CIR put their total water bill, measured for the year ending April 1, at roughly $90,000.

To put that in perspective, one of my friends’ parents, who own a house in the Pasadena area with three bathrooms and a pool, told me their water bill this year was about $660. On average, households in the region fork over about $780 a year each, Gary Breaux, chief financial officer of the region’s water district, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, recently told CNBC.

By a rough estimate (and not taking into base fees), the Wet Prince, then, is using 115 times the normal amount.

Why some excessive use is a problem for everyone

California drought
Horacio Cisneros sprays spa water in a backyard before removing the spa, in Lake Elsinore, California. Chris Carlson


As a recent article in The Times points out, the burden of excessive water use is not being borne equally in California.

In fact, the only reason the city, which has mandated a cutback in water use of 16%, is meeting its goals is thanks to some households that are actually conserving. Meanwhile, the city’s top water users — many of whom own property with multiple pools, vast, lush lawns, and decorative fountains and waterfalls — face no fines.

This is all possible because of the state’s complex approach to water. California has mandated that all districts cut back water use by “up to 36%,” but it oversees 400 separate water districts. And each one gets to come up with its own water-conservation regulations.

Some utilities are slamming users that go over their monthly water allotment with “drought surcharges” which can reach hundreds of dollars, according to The Times.

Others — like the one that oversees the Wet Prince — are doing nothing.

As reported by Business Insider