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The Rich and Famous Water Wasters of Beverly Hills

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The city is still not meeting mandatory water cutback goals, and now it's scolding and fining some bold-faced names

If you know anything about the stubborn residents of Beverly Hills, it's not very surprising that the city has been uniquely bad—even among rich communities—at cutting back on water during the California drought. The state imposed mandatory cutbacks last year; because of its high usage, Beverly Hills was ordered to reduce its water consumption by 32 percent (from 2013 numbers).

Instead, it failed to meet one single day of that goal for four months straight, and the State Water Resources Control Board fined the city, along with only three other water districts in the state; the board said Beverly Hills "should be ashamed" of their water use when three-quarters of the rest of the state had managed to meet their goals or get very very close.

But finally in November, Beverly Hills got serious and started not just targeting big water users with scolding letters, but also penalizing them. They still aren't meeting their goal, but a 26-percent cutback in January is "its highest percentage in eight months of reporting and more than double its effort in December," reports the LA Times.

Beverly Hills passed new water laws way back last May that included restrictions on outdoor watering, swimming pool refilling, and carwashing; in June, they approved "penalty surcharges" for water wasters. But they never started charging those penalties until November, after the state had fined them. Then all of a sudden water use started going down.

The chief of enforcement for the state water board believes it's not the city/water district's fault that Beverly Hills is so bad at conservation: "The agency is providing the right tools to their customers. It's that the customers don't have the wherewithal to commit to conservation…. There are other affluent communities in the state where conservation is cool. In Beverly Hills, for whatever reason, people are not motivated."

The Times got ahold of the warning letters Beverly Hills sent out to the 86 biggest water wasters, along with the water bills associated, through a public records request, which handily reveals which rich celebrities have been "letting their pipes leak." The scofflaws' bills range from $2,458 to $31,640 for just two months of water use.

– David Geffen used 1.6 million gallons over two months last summer at his Warner Estate, averaging about 27,000 gallons of water a day, or about 60 times what an average LA family uses. He was only supposed to be using about 1.1 million gallons in that time, but apparently that just wasn't enough. He was charged more than $30,000. But water use at the property dropped 56 percent from 2013 baseline levels in the period ending in January.

— Actress Amy Poehler used more than 170,000 gallons at her property over two months last year, and was charged $2,200.

— Developer Geoff Palmer (the man responsible for all those fauxtalian fortresses clustered around the freeway in Downtown LA) used more than 12,000 gallons of water a day over two months, spending more than $12,000 on water. He told the Times a leaky pipe was to blame, but also ranted about how much water walnuts and pistachios use. He's filed an appeal of his penalty.

– Rush Hour director and water overuser Brett Ratner told the Times he also had leaky pipes, then says he found even more leaky pipes and is now replacing the whole water line.

— Will & Grace cocreator and water overuser Max Mutchnick also had leaky pipes, apparently, which he says have now been repaired.

Since it still has not met its conservation target, the enforcement chief for the state water board says he's not ruled out fining Beverly Hills again.