Utility chokes off flow to water-guzzling celebrity mansions
Comedian Kevin Hart, rapper The Game among customers with flow restrictors in Hidden Hills and Calabasas
Water guzzler comedian Kevin Hart has one, as does rapper The Game, with Kim Kardashian, Sylvester Stallone and Madonna poised to watch a slow drip into their mansion estates.
They are among the delinquent property owners in the West San Fernando Valley who’ve had their water spigots choked by newly invented flow restrictors, or risk having them installed by a local water supplier, The Guardian reported.
The local utility, faced with a historic drought, has put the clamps on even the super rich.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you make, how well-known you are: all of you are being treated the same,” Mike McNutt, a spokesman for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves the celebrity-rich enclaves of Calabasas and Hidden Hills, told the newspaper.
California has had its driest three-year stretch on record, surpassing the dry years of 2013-15. A fourth dry year looks increasingly likely, according to the Los Angeles Times.
With long-range forecasts predicting warmer and drier-than-average conditions, uncertainty remains about what the new water year may bring, even as residents conserve.
But in celebrity enclaves like Calabasas and Hidden Hills, the Las Virgenes Water District has a major challenge: their customers are so rich that fines aren’t likely to stem the flow, McNutt said, even as the district mandated a 50 percent reduction in outdoor watering.
So 36-year-old Cason Gilmer, a senior field customer service representative, headed into the district workshop to work on a mechanical stopgap.
The result was a small yet mighty flow restrictor, a disc made out of food-safe stainless steel with a tiny hole at the center. It can cut water flow so sharply that it’s hard to shower and wash dishes at the same time, while outdoor lawn watering becomes impossible.
It takes just 10 minutes to pop one into the water pipe outside a customer’s home. The district adds a seal. And hangs a sign warning of a $2,500 fine if the device is tampered with, McNutt said.
Customers, even celebrities, have been reasonable, Gilmer said, and not thrown fits when shown the risk of having their water flow slowed to a trickle.
A residence becomes eligible for a restrictor when it has exceeded its water limit by 150 percent at least four times since December of last year. But while more than 1,600 customers in the district have met these criteria, McNutt said, they have actually installed the device very sparingly – just six or seven dozen installations through early September.
So far, the tactic has faced no legal challenges.
The lawn around Kourtney Kardashian’s pool in Calabasas had gone brown by September, suggesting that the reality star’s household had made changes after making it on to the long list of customers eligible for a flow restrictor, CBS News Los Angeles reported.
In contrast, the lawn outside Kim Kardashian’s mansion was still “a perfectly manicured green,” the TV station reported.
As far as it knows, Las Virgenes is the only water district in California to use flow restrictors, but the approach is drawing national interest. It has fielded inquiries from other California water districts, in addition to water suppliers in Texas and Florida.
— Dana Bartholomew