Meet California's Biggest Water Hogs

New data shows residents of some wealthy Southern California cities use more than 10 times as much water per day as their northern counterparts.

Residents of Rancho Santa Fe, California, use the most water per person per day in the state. (Photo: Sam Mircovich/Reuters)


Nov 4, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

Northern Californians and Southern Californians have long fought over culture (Berkeley versus Beverly Hills), sports (Giants versus Dodgers), politics (Jerry Brown versus Ronald Reagan), and, above all, water (the North makes it; the South takes it).

Well, this won’t help matters as California enters the fourth year of a record drought: Data released on Tuesday reveals that some of California’s most prolific water users live in wealthy—very, very wealthy—Southern California towns.

The State Water Resources Control Board for the first time revealed per capita water use statistics it collected from California water agencies under emergency drought regulations.

Who are the biggest water consumers? From September to October, residents of Rancho Santa Fe, a San Diego County enclave often listed as one of the nation’s richest zip codes, used 584.4 gallons of water per person. Per day.

California Water Consumption: Gallons Per Person Per Day

San Franciscans, on the other hand, consumed a scant 45.7 gallons of water per techie daily, the lowest rate in the state, according to the data.

That means although the Rancho Santa Fe area water district only has 2.3 percent of the population of San Francisco, its customers use the equivalent of 22 percent of the water delivered to the Bay Area metropolis.

Los Angeles residents consumed 92.8 gallons per person a day, for those of you keeping score in the perpetual L.A.–San Francisco rivalry.

In Santa Cruz, the surf mecca south of San Francisco that has imposed strict water rationing, per capita use was 49 gallons.

Not all Northern California communities were so miserly. The exclusive town of Hillsborough, home to many of Silicon Valley’s movers and shakers, turned on the taps to the tune of 290 gallons per day. (In nearby Menlo Park, though, residents only consumed 55.8 gallons a day.) Residents of the usually water-rich Sierra Nevada town of Truckee consumed 309 gallons of water per person.

But overall, California’s biggest water hogs live in Southern California, and usage tends to track bank accounts. Each Beverley Hills resident, for instance, used 285.6 gallons of water a day last month, compared with 49.7 gallons for those residing in East Los Angeles.

And you would think people living in the desert would be used to taking five-minute showers, right?

Nah. Each Palm Springs resident splashed around 378.5 gallons a day.

“This new residential water use data, which is a first for the state, will inform localized conservation efforts and should start conversations in every community in California about the best and most judicious use of our precious water,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the SWRCB, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Californians seem to be getting the message that they need to do more to save water to forestall more drastic restrictions. Statewide water use fell 10.3 percent in September compared with the previous year, and the state saved 77 billion gallons of water between June and September, according to an SWRCB report.