California’s John Galts Don’t Think They Should Have to Save Water

Shed a tiny tear for the Marie Antoinettes and wannabe John Galts of California:

Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.

People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Yuhas lives in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, a bucolic Southern California hamlet of ranches, gated communities and country clubs that guzzles five times more water per capita than the statewide average. In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.

Unfortunately for them, gated communities in bone-dry Southern California are moving from paying extra to keep guzzling water, to actual direct rationing. And some people aren’t happy about it.

“I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world,” said Gay Butler, an interior designer out for a trail ride on her show horse, Bear. She said her water bill averages about $800 a month.

“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

Yes, actually. Yes. It’s a drought, you live in the desert being irrigated by dwindling supplies. There just isn’t enough water to keep your four acres of horse-riding land green for your personal aesthetics.

“I call it the war on suburbia,” said Brett Barbre, who lives in the Orange County community of Yorba Linda, another exceptionally wealthy Zip code. Barbre sits on the 37-member board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a huge water wholesaler serving 17 million customers. He is fond of referring to his watering hose with Charlton Heston’s famous quote about guns: “They’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

“California used to be the land of opportunity and freedom,” Barbre said. “It’s slowly becoming the land of one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives.”

Jurgen Gramckow, a sod farmer north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, agrees. He likens the freedom to buy water to the freedom to buy gasoline. “Some people have a Prius; others have a Suburban,” Gramckow said. “Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.”

Nothing better shows the infantility of the Republican mindset. These people believe that they’re all kings of their own little islands, that they have a right to use whatever they can get their hands on however they want. They have no concept of community or natural limits. For them, owning a Suburban is just as valid a choice as owning a Prius, climate change is a hoax that shouldn’t affect their choices, and anyone telling them they might have to cut back on something is a busybody interfering in their lives and waging a do-gooder war on their lifestyle. Their wealth doesn’t come at the expense of others because capitalism allows for endless growth and opportunity for those with enough gumption to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And if they’re rich, the sense of the entitlement is exponentially greater.

They’re basically overgrown toddlers who don’t want to share and don’t understand how the world really works. And then they cry and feel abused when confronted by reality.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.