Thursday, September 18, 2014

super-rich losing the war against nature


telegraph |  In a desperate bid to save their manicured lawns and towering topiary, some of Montecito's multi-millionaires have since been trying to out-spend nature by buying water in from outside. 

Each morning at the crack of dawn, trucks laden with precious H₂O trundle down lanes towards parched estates.

The buyers are paying up to $80 (£49) a unit – a unit is 748 gallons – for water that normally costs a maximum of $6.86 (£4.23) a unit from the water district. 

The trucks are now a common sight in Montecito, passing by Sotheby's International Realty and an haute couture clothes store. But the origin of the water is something of a mystery. 

"I see the trucks every day. They're like big gas trucks with a water sign on," said Tori Delgado, who works in the Montecito wine and cheese shop. "But nobody knows where they're getting it from."
The water is likely being sold by private individuals elsewhere in California who have wells on their properties. 

But wherever it comes from the buyers appear to be staving off the inevitable only temporarily, and many millionaires are turning to conservation instead. Miss Winfrey is prominent among them.
"Two months ago she just said, 'Turn off the water', and now there's not a green blade of grass on that lawn," a resident who has seen her parched garden told the Telegraph. 

At Miss Winfrey's second and larger Montecito estate – an $85 million affair called Promised Land – the grass is still green but the water bill has also fallen dramatically. 

The Montecito Water District has so far banned the watering of gardens in the middle of the day, filling swimming pools at any time, and the building of new homes. 

Meanwhile scores of angry residents have lodged appeals for more water. One asked for a supply to save 300 specimen trees – but was told the trees would have to die. 

Tom Mosby, general manager of Montecito Water District, said: "People come to us and say 'We want to build a swimming pool' and we say 'No'. If it doesn't rain next year the state's going to go dry. We are talking about a disaster movie in the making."