Their California mansions, lush with green lawns and vegetation, guzzle as much water as 90 homes - but the astronomical bills are a drop in the bucket for them. After years of searing drought in the state, authorities and activists are scrambling to find ways to get the ultra-rich to turn off their sprinklers and get on board with conservation efforts.
Some, like the news site Reveal, go for the sledgehammer: expose the identity of the residential "mega-users" and how much water they are using -- "drought-shaming" - to push them, and people like them, to act. A year ago, Reveal reported that 100 residential water customers in the luxury neighborhoods of Los Angeles, like Bel Air and Beverly Hills, were consuming millions of gallons of water a year.
One of the exclusive properties, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting site, used 11.8 million gallons (45 million liters) of water in one year, "enough for 90 households."
Reveal dubbed that household the "Wet Prince of Bel Air." Authorities have refused to identify the big water-wasters, so Reveal turned its sights on satellite images and other clues to unmask them. Last month Reveal identified what it said were seven "likely culprits," presumably including the "Wet Prince of Bel Air."
Among them were a former television network chief, an investment banker, a film producer and an heir of a retail giant's fortune.
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The authorities have their own "shaming" site - www.savewater.ca.gov - that encourages individuals to report when they see water being wasted, whether its watering on the wrong day or at the wrong time, such as under a hot sun or washing down sidewalks.
Social media's finger-pointing hashtag, #droughtshaming, has been aimed at celebrities like reality television stars Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, singers Kanye West and Barbra Streisand, comedian Amy Poehler and actor Tom Selleck.
Marty Adams, a top executive at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) said that water shaming draws attention "but there's no proof it works better than anything else."
"Shaming is not really the most direct way to reduce water use," said Stephanie Pincetl, professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. She prefers higher bills, fines and shutting off the water.
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