Hunting the water guzzlers of Bel Air

moraga-vineyard.jpgRupert Murdoch's Moraga Vineyard is not the big residential user in Bel Air — apparently.

Earlier this month, the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley reported that a home in Bel Air was California's largest residential consumer of water during the drought. The home used 11.8 million gallons of water in one year – that's said to be enough for 90 households. The DWP provided the summary information but opted, as allowed under state law, not to identify the water waster or even the address — even though if you got busted for watering on the wrong day or letting your sprinkler wet the street, your violation would apparently be a public record.

It's worse, per CIR's story, called The Wet Prince of Bel Air.

In all, 365 California households pumped more than 1 million gallons of water apiece during the year ending in April, the records show....

In addition to the state’s biggest user, Bel Air had 19 customers pumping more than 2.8 million gallons per year. In nearby Beverly Hills, the famously upscale ZIP code of 90210 had 32 customers using 2.8 million gallons or more.


n August, Mayor Eric Garcetti said L.A.’s water use had dropped by 21 percent during two years of drought.

But the city also has 92 of the top 100 residential water users known in California. On average, L.A.’s mega-users pumped 4.2 million gallons per year apiece. The mega-users live in neighborhoods favored by the rich and famous....

Also living in Bel Air: not just the state’s biggest known water customer, but four of California’s top five, with usage ranging from 7.4 million to 11.8 million gallons per year.

Enter Steve Lopez, the columnist for the Los Angeles Times. As a column gimmick, he was videotaped driving around Bel Air looking for the culprit. The column took some shots at the big estates they have in Bel Air, with more being built all the time, but came up with nothing on the water user. A follow-up column this weekend added some new information. First, the area's councilman, Paul Koretz, is shocked — shocked — that any of his well-heeled constituents use that much water without any backlash from the DWP. (No, he's not but it sounds good.) Second, Lopez has a team of neighborhood group activists trying to figure out who the big water user is. They ruled out Moraga Vineyards, the wine-making operation purchased a few years ago by Rupert Murdoch, because it's in Zip code 90049 instead of 90077, which is CIR's information about the location. The Bel Air Hotel and Bel Air Country Club are presumed to be out too, since they are not residential users.

Lopez and friends still don't know who the big water guzzlers are, but the DWP does. I wonder how long before it comes out.

Meanwhile, it's fair to ask exactly how much Los Angeles water is used to brew beer by Anheuser-Busch at its Van Nuys brewery — much larger since the 1977-78 drought, and traditionally one of the top three or four commercial water users in the city. The brewery got a lot of ink for saying this summer it would spend $20 million to become more water efficient, but I didn't see any numbers for how much water the brewer actually uses.

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