Published: July 13, 2015

    #DroughtShaming: How Awareness Leads to Conservation

    With even conservative estimates placing the remaining water in California’s reservoirs at one-year’s worth, the entire state is feeling the effects of drought and the resulting mandated cutbacks in usage ordered by Governor Brown in April. Home consumption has reduced considerably, with last month’s figures in Los Angeles County showing cutbacks exceeding the ideal reduction of 25%.

    However, the more affluent and prominent stars in the area have recently come under social media attack: #DroughtShaming has been trending on Twitter. Wealthy San Diego residents have been criticized for blatantly ignoring the drought conditions by continuing to excessively use water. And celebrities such as Tom Selleck and Kim Kardashian are being scrutinized for their flagrant water consumption during this historic drought. Tom Selleck in particular is being skewered by news sources and common tweeters alike after news broke that he has been siphoning water from a hydrant in a water district outside of his own, then transporting the water to his sprawling 60-acre property for personal use.

    What Selleck is accused of is illegal and he is currently feeling the legal ramifications of those claims. But what about the “typical” millionaire, whose only crime is continually watering their lush estates and green gardens under worsening drought conditions? Should Kanye, Barbara Streisand, and Jessica Simpson really be feeling the wrath of #DroughtShaming?

    One common argument pertaining to personal water consumption in California is that, percentage-wise, it’s a small chunk of total consumption. 55% of the state’s water consumption is attributed to the meat industry and agriculture, as opposed to the approximate 10% attributed to personal consumption. In addition, behemoth companies like Nestle that continue to bottle California aquifer water in a time of extreme drought draw sharp criticism, with many on social media claiming their actions should be taken to task first.

    However, #DroughtShaming is ultimately about visibility and a public call to action. The reason that the governor called on the public to cut back water consumption is because the public can do something to alleviate the crisis. This is why celebrities play such an important role in the narrative of water consumption – if they can’t conserve water and set an eco-friendly example, why should we? And if the population at large can’t conserve water, then how can we expect big business and entire industries to succeed where we fell short?

    Conservation must be a statewide practice in order to alleviate the drought crisis in any meaningful way. And, as the lifestyle entails, the famous and wealthy are at the forefront of the discussion of the drought with their ongoing public visibility. #DroughtShaming has become a trending watchword because it should be applauded. Drawing attention to the one percent’s wasteful water habits is a quick road to conversation and conservation on their part and ours. Millionaires’ yards can be replaced if necessary. California’s water supply cannot.