Patterico's Pontifications

8/28/2014

Money Can’t Buy You Love, But It Sure Can Buy You Water – Even In A Drought

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:10 am

[guest post by Dana]

As Californians are now in the third year of a drought, now a Stage 4, economizing water has become a way of life for many.

But all things being relative, while some in hard hit towns like the immensely wealthy enclave of Montecito may appear to have made water-saving measures a new habit as evidenced in cutting water usage almost 50%, they are still using what anyone would consider copious amounts of water – even if they have to pay to truck it in:

Many mornings, just before 7 a.m., a large tanker truck pulls up to the grand gates of Oprah Winfrey’s 40-acre estate in Montecito, California. Inside is neither merchandise nor produce – just water.

A year ago, Oprah’s annual bill from the Montecito Water District was just shy of $125,000. This year, it is less than half. Like many in this wealthy enclave, Oprah has cut back on her consumption of district water. That said, her property has its own wells and a small lake and, according to neighbors, there are the trucks.

These days, tankers can be seen barreling down Montecito’s narrow country roads day and night, ferrying up to 5,000 gallons of H20 to some of the world’s richest and thirstiest folks.

Unfortunately, gorgeous Montecito has the misfortune of being located where there is less available water than any other part of the central coast as a nearby aquifer only reaches a small portion of the community. And because of the severity of drought in the community, heavy fines are levied for those who overuse. And some residents appear more than willing to pay:

In May, 837 defiant—or careless—residents coughed up $532,000 in penalties, or a collective overage of about 13 million gallons of town water. The beachfront Biltmore Four Seasons was whacked with a penalty of $48,000 for using about one million gallons over its allotment in April, while a nearby private home sucked up a $30,000 fine for the month for guzzling an extra 750,000 gallons. The district receives about 30 appeals a week. Those who do not pay their bills receive shut off notices— and about 400 were sent out in the last year. The Montecito Water District, which is particularly discreet about its patrons, admits it will rake in close to $4 million in fines this year.

But for those who understand that money talks, water is still plentiful.

Does it really matter if the wealthy pay for water to be brought in? Truck drivers make a living off the demand and the lush rolling lawns remain emerald green. Win-win. Well, it just might matter. The water they are trucking in doesn’t come from an endless source. It comes from the nearby town of Carpenteria. Charles Hamilton, general manager of the Carpinteria Water District, worries:

Carpinteria, one of the country’s top producers of avocados and flowers, is an agricultural wonderland for good reason. The town sits on an immense aquifer that Hamilton describes as a “geological treasure,” amply providing for its residents and thousands of acres of agriculture.

Every well in Carpinteria, however, draws upon its aquifer — like so many straws in a glass. If water continues to be siphoned from these wells to cash in on Montecito’s plight — and if the winter rains do not come — Hamilton frets that even its great aquifer will be threatened.

Meanwhile, 190 miles away from Montecito, the small rural town of Porterville has run out of water. The wells are dry.

“We received direction early last week from county administration to come out and conduct an emergency operation. We distributed 15,552 gallons of drinking water to the community,” said Andrew Lockman, manager of Tulare County Office of Emergency Services. “At this time, it is all funded under the county’s general fund.”

Many residents of East Porterville are now relying on a 5,000 gallon tank of non-potable water. The tank is provided by Tulare County and is located in front of Tulare County Fire Department Station 20.

Perhaps the rich and famous of Montecito might send word to turn those water trucks northeast.

You can also read here about the latest lawsuit in California between farmers versus Indian tribes, environmentalists and fishermen over the federal release of water to aid residents salmon.

–Dana

47 Responses to “Money Can’t Buy You Love, But It Sure Can Buy You Water – Even In A Drought”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (4dbf62)

  2. Leftists, they eat their own. I hope the all eat dust. SAVE THE SNAIL DARTER!!!

    Hoagie (4dfb34)

  3. Dart the snail savers?

    C. S. P. Schofield (e8b801)

  4. I lived in Montecito back in the early 70s and thought about going into the water business. Tap water was exceptionally hard, it was heavily over burdened with dissolved minerals. Commercial reverse osmosis units were available and could clean it up to the point of near purity.

    After some preliminary number crunching I let friends talk me out of it. 3 years later I was having bottled water delivered and buying Perrier by the case. And, another one bit the dust.

    ropelight (cdcdbf)

  5. When the cities quit issuing building permits is when I will believe the real drought has
    hit. They are still building new homes on previously empty land–not just remodels. The
    cities need the tax base income to continue to grow your bigger government.

    bald01 (096663)

  6. But money can buy you love.

    As long as you user your money to buy a dog.

    I agree that hookers are a bad deal. Unlike dogs when the money runs out, they run out. But I digress.

    Kali’s drought is self imposed.

    Steve57 (99bd31)

  7. The people of Montecito had the foresight to conserve waste in good times, so now they can legally use a lot, even with cutbacks.

    Sammy Finkelman (7d0d47)

  8. This drought “crisis” is just another revenue grabber and political threat. Never let a crisis go to waste! Rich people pay the government for more water, which I would do too, and the poor then beg the government for help. Political genius.

    Moonbeam seems to be hinting that the crisis might let up a little should we let him build his tunnels under the delta. Quid pro quo and all that.

    Patricia (5fc097)

  9. Perhaps it is time for Montecito to impose an import tax on incoming water – for the sake of the children (of snail darters), of course … and then use the proceeds to build and run a desalination plant …

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  10. I have a tangental question; would it be impractical to take clean water from a sewage processing plant and pump it back down into an aquifer that is being run dry?

    C. S. P. Schofield (e8b801)

  11. if it’s impractical then yeah there’s a super-good chance it’ll get the greenlight from sacramento

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  12. Those who do not pay their bills receive shut off notices— and about 400 were sent out in the last year. The Montecito Water District, which is particularly discreet about its patrons, admits it will rake in close to $4 million in fines this year.

    Say it ain’t so! We’ll need to get these guys involved to undo this injustice. Don’t they know the United Nations has declared this a human rights violation?

    JVW (638245)

  13. California deserves every inch it takes and 3 inches wider too.

    Rodney King's Spirit (8b9b5a)

  14. #10 Yes.

    Rodney King's Spirit (8b9b5a)

  15. Background:

    Santa Barbara gets its water from the Santa Ynez river. Before California became a state, the year round flow of Mission Creek was barely adequate to supply the town’s needs. (If you visit, check out the period fountain in front of the Mission and the primitive aqueduct running from the dam Indian labor built in what is now the Botanical Garden in Mission Canyon.) As the town grew reoccurring droughts plagued the area and limited population growth. First Gibralter Dam and reservoir was built in 1920 and Bradbury dam was added in 1953, it filled Lake Cachuma and was adequate to provide water for the growing city in addition to both Goleta, Montecito, and to the surrounding ranches and farms. However, the population continued to grow putting pressure on what was once thought to be more than adequate supplies. Periodic droughts returned.

    In 1991 the city built a sea-water desalination plant in response to the drought years of 1986 to 1992. Both Goleta to the North and Montecito to the South participated in the construction funding and were entitled to receive water allocations accordingly for the initial 5 year contract period. The plant only operated for a few months however (till June 1992) when abundant freshwater supplies allowed the city to deactivate the plant and put it in stand-by mode.

    When the initial 5 year contract period expired both Goleta and Montecito elected to end their participation and declined to extend or renew their contracts. Yet after a period of normal and above normal rainfall drought conditions again returned. In February 2014 the City of Santa Barbara declared a drought. Both city reservoirs fed by the Santa Ynez River (Gibralter and Lake Cachuma) are at very low levels and 2013 saw record low rainfall.

    Thus have water supplies in Santa Barbara waxed and waned since time out of mind. Older residents are in near unanimous agreement: never pass up an opportunity to secure rights to water: you’re going to need it, maybe not this year or next year, but there will come a time when you are going to need it. They have great difficulty convincing parsimonious and shortsighted newcomers of cold facts they learned the hard way.

    ropelight (a043cf)

  16. I thought climate change was democrat propaganda.

    mr.gop (7412ac)

  17. 1. California sucks, and always will.

    2. Set a global budget for water consumption at sustainable and auction tranches. People will figure out ways to conserve and the expense of living there may induce a gradual demographic decline.

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  18. #15

    The desal plant was sold to some Saudi Arabians, so the plant is just a shell.
    Every home here that is new or remodeled has an RO unit, so you were on to something… just about 25 years ahead of your time. Please let me know any other ideas you have and I will set my calendar..

    The primary water source of water for Montecito dates from the 1920′s and is from the Juncal dam in an upper reach of the Santa Ynez river. A large part of the secondary sources is from ground water intrusion into the Doulton tunnel that was built under the Santa Ynez Mountains to conduct Juncal water to Montecito. http://www.countyofsb.org/pwd/pwwater.aspx?id=3736

    There are also several wells that are used. http://www.countyofsb.org/pwd/pwwater.aspx?id=3736
    The district used to divert water directly via pipe and flume from Fox creek and Alder creek, but they have made concessions to the feds in order to avoid lawsuits.

    I am currently buying non potable water for several customers, none of whom are Oprah.
    5000 gallons costs around $500 which breaks down to about $100 (or $.02 per gallon) for water and the rest is trucking charges.
    The water I buy doesn’t come from Carpinteria wells, but from an avocado orchard with its own water sources up along the Ellwood coast that stumped their trees and doesn’t need as much water right now.
    That said, the cheapest water is from the Ventura county side of Casitas Pass, but traffic can up those trucking fees.

    I don’t care if farmers sell their water, and I don’t care if Oprah has decided to truck in 50,000 gallons a day. Its her money and she can spend it however she wants. Oprah probably spends 10,000 gallons a day just keeping her privacy hedges alive

    steveg (794291)

  19. Generally speaking, rainfall along California’s central coast (say from Point Conception North to about the border with Oregon) depends largely on the Jet Stream’s configuration in the Eastern Pacific during the Fall and Winter months. If the Stream dips dramatically to the South (almost U shaped) it forces storms marching across the Pacific down far enough to drench the CA coast with abundant rain, rain which in normal years is usually destined for Oregon and Washington.

    However, if the Jet Stream remains rather flat flowing out of Alaska (with a shallow trough shaped more like an undulating ocean swell) and running generally along the border between the US and Canada, rain falls mainly in Washington and Oregon. (This is considered normal) Marcher storms in normal years rarely get down far enough to dump the enormous amounts of snow on the peaks of the high Sierra Nevada which sustains the magnificent abundance of the San Jaoquin Valley, or to swell the foothill streams (like the Merced which comes flowing out of Yosemite Valley, or to wet the rocky shores and fill the few remaining coastal estuaries of the Golden State.

    Most observers see a correlation between the warming and cooling cycles of El Nino currents and the Jet Stream’s periodic configurations. It isn’t a direct match, other factors are also involved, but there’s enough of a recurring pattern over time to draw tentative conclusions.

    ropelight (a043cf)

  20. climate change IS democrat propaganda

    precious monkey do you not listen to NPR?

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  21. Thanks steveg. I’m surprised you get water from Elwood, its been considered rather parched up there since the haydays of the Campbell estate. I know the area well.

    ropelight (a043cf)

  22. The funny thing about water conservation campaigns is that price hikes follow them when revenues decrease due to the water savings.

    Denver Todd (831352)

  23. you have a comedic gift

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  24. steveg as for coming up with the idea, it was a no-brainer. I was taking an introductory Chem class at UCSB and for the first lab we weighed a glass beaker, filled it with a known amount of water, and weighed the beaker and the contents. Then boiled off all the water and weighed the empty beaker again. The difference between the initial weight and the final weight was entirely dissolved minerals and the amount present in the water was appalling. Basic arithmetic allowed for an appreciation of just how much mineralization was present in say a 12oz glass of water. I was taken aback, so I started looking into ways to remove the impurities and thought about turning it into a business. I wish I had.

    ropelight (a043cf)

  25. #21
    There is a ranch out there that is fairly large extending to the top of the SY Range and it gets water from both vertical and horizontal wells. They feed it all into a small reservoir

    #22
    I know a guy at the local water district. He told me a long time ago that people could cut their use in half and still get a huge bill. The costs of distribution used to be blended into millions of gallons of water… and when you cut those millions in half?
    Costs of distribution remain the same except for the conservation specialist they had to hire… which raised the price per unit further

    steveg (794291)

  26. Heck yeah, who wants to be a running back in the PAC-12 anyway? They’re expected to be stronger than the SEC this year.

    ropelight (a043cf)

  27. Desalination is the way to go. Find a power plant or industrial process with lots of waste heat, then use that to distill the seawater. It’s simple, but effective.

    OmegaPaladin (f4a293)

  28. The desal plant here that got disassembled and sold to the saudis used high pressure pumps to force the water through ever smaller filters. Evidently it was a high energy user

    steveg (794291)

  29. Here is an article about desal and southern california. Carlsbad CA is trying to make it work economically…
    in my opinion, the problem is distribution. If the desal water for drinking only had its own pipe, no problem. Recycled water in its own pipe for irrigation only, no problem. City water for mixed use, either or…. ummmm

    steveg (794291)

  30. Multi-tiered water rates. If you use more than some egregious amount, you pay an egregious amount per hundred gallon. If a tanker pulls up to refill, it automatically pays the top rate. This is the reverse of the “bulk discount rate” but is still market-based, after a form, because it causes a reduced demand. And that reduced demand is what is desired.

    There are a lot of free-market issues with this idea, but it’s a spaghetti-on-the-wall idea. And it’s more free-market for a scarce (some people have a new-found love for that word) resource than just a fine.

    John Hitchcock (5131d7)

  31. Question: By trucking in tankers full of water, isn’t Oprah contributing more CO2 to global warming, which will only exacerbate the problem and cause the drought to get worse?

    Just curious.

    arik (2374fd)

  32. That’s okay, arik. She off-set her CO2 footprint by planting 100 pine trees (which were subsequently cut down to build part of her house), so it’s all good.

    *This comment was in no means written to be a factual statement, lest vexatious litigants get the wrong idea.

    John Hitchcock (5131d7)

  33. If you are into buying love on the interwebs, steer clear of falconry. You hawk will not love you back.

    It will take food from your hand, but…

    It doesn’t love you.

    I don’t know about parrots. I never had a parrot.

    Steve57 (99bd31)

  34. Just saying, I don’t want to paint all birds with the same brush.

    Steve57 (99bd31)

  35. steveg, got a question, ballpark, how much gray water byproduct goes down the drain per gallon of RO water?

    ropelight (623571)

  36. #10 and #14

    It isn’t impractical to use an aquifer for storage combined with tertiary treatment. However, if the aquifer is low and you need the water now and the treated water is good for X uses (e.g. watering avocado trees) then it is impractical to pump it into the aquifer to be removed at a point x miles away when you could simply truck or pipe from the WWTP directly to the farm.

    NewEnglandDevil (820235)

  37. ropelight (a043cf) — 8/28/2014 @ 3:46 pm

    Older residents are in near unanimous agreement: never pass up an opportunity to secure rights to water: you’re going to need it, maybe not this year or next year, but there will come a time when you are going to need it. They have great difficulty convincing parsimonious and shortsighted newcomers of cold facts they learned the hard way.

    And I think also: DON’T CONSERVE WATER!!

    Conserve waste of water. Retain a large margin of unnecessary water usage.

    This is not even selfish. In the long run, there’ll be as much water available as is being used.

    Sammy Finkelman (7d0d47)

  38. Sammy, I knew people in Santa Barbara who closed the drain when they showered and used 5 gallon buckets to dip out the grey water to flush toilets and water outside shrubs. It was illegal to water your lawn or wash your car, seriously, washing your car carried a hefty fine. I’m talking about real drought, not a water shortage, not some minor inconvenience, but a situation were there’s just not enough fresh water to go around.

    #5, bald01, 8/28/2014 @ 8:38 am

    The city did try to restrict population growth by withholding building permits. It didn’t work, people kept moving to Santa Barbara and residents responded by partitioning their houses, converting attics and garages into bootleg apartments and were able to charge exceptionally high rents. Property values skyrocketed. Homes that sold for $25,000 ten years ago were now going for $250,000 and up. The bootleg conversion problem became so widespread authorities couldn’t even slow it down, much less put a stop to it, there was just too much money on the table. Eventually the drought ended and the City no longer had justification to use water scarcity as an excuse to obstruct new construction.

    ropelight (623571)

  39. Alastor (2e7f9f) — 8/28/2014 @ 11:42 am

    Better would be for Carpenteria to impose a Water Depletion Tax on well water being exported to users outside the district boundaries.

    rope (@ 3:46am), how can Goleta be ‘north’ of Santa Barbara, and Montecito be ‘south’ when the coastline from Point Conception to Ventura runs “East & West”?

    askeptic (efcf22)

  40. ropelight @39.

    Sammy, I knew people in Santa Barbara who closed the drain when they showered and used 5 gallon buckets to dip out the grey water to flush toilets and water outside shrubs.

    When? this year or before?

    It was illegal to water your lawn or wash your car, seriously, washing your car carried a hefty fine. I’m talking about real drought, not a water shortage, not some minor inconvenience, but a situation were there’s just not enough fresh water to go around.

    When was this?

    But in the good years they could have conserved waste. Then they’d be able to cut back now.

    #5, bald01, 8/28/2014 @ 8:38 am

    The bootleg conversion problem became so widespread authorities couldn’t even slow it down, much less put a stop to it, there was just too much money on the table.

    Illegal immigration.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  41. sammy, the most serious drought that I can remember was in the Late-70′s, when we were required to ask for water in restaurants, otherwise it would not be provided.
    That is probably the period ropelight was referring to.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  42. rope, my previous comment to you meant to reference something you posted at 3:46PM, not AM.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  43. Yes, askeptic, the coastline does run East to West in Santa Barbara and environs, but so few non-residents are aware of that unique geographic feature I used up and down conventions hoping to avoid confusion but you’re correct to bring attention to it. Thanks.

    BTW, from the El Encanto’s balcony (and lots of other places) you can watch the sun rise from the East out of the blue pacific ocean in the morning, and watch it descend into the Western ocean in the evening. I miss watching sunsets from Leadbetter point. Further up the Coast, Morro Bay and Cayucos you can see a Green Snap when the conditions are right.

    ropelight (623571)

  44. #36 wild ass guess is more than 10X. R/O is set on the drinking side.

    #40 In my opinion city of carpenteria has very little say on pre existing water rights and cannot tax the sale of the rights without *bleeping* up the entire system.
    I am not a water rights lawyer, but the Gin Chow decisions carry some weight around here

    steveg (794291)

  45. I tagged the Gin Chow sentence onto that post… Gin Chow was a water case, but has nothing to do with farmers/ranchers selling their water.

    steveg (794291)

  46. @ steveg,

    I don’t care if farmers sell their water, and I don’t care if Oprah has decided to truck in 50,000 gallons a day. Its her money and she can spend it however she wants. Oprah probably spends 10,000 gallons a day just keeping her privacy hedges alive.

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, so if you later explain, please disregard my question. Of course Oprah is free to buy whatever she wants as long as she meets the prices asked. However, do you think that if there are indeed limited sources of water for any number of state residents and those sources may possibly dry up depending on rainfall, etc., that the mass purchase and shipping of water in turn puts others at possible risk? Do you believe that no matter the extending possible consequences, market demand supersedes all else (whether or not other residents go without water)?

    Dana (4dbf62)


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