In perpetually drought-stricken Southern California, celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and Barbara Streisand have beautifully landscaped lawns — and the New York Post isn’t letting them get away with it.
On Saturday, The Post’s Page Six gossip column published aerial photos of the celebrities’ lawns, showing vast stretches of bright green grass and healthy hedges. According to the Post, the well-manicured yards are proof that celebrities are flying in the face of a new emergency law forcing cities like Los Angeles to reduce water use by up to 36 percent.
“The Kardashian flowers and hedges are right in our face,” an unnamed neighbor reportedly told The Post. “It’s disgusting. You walk by and you can smell the freshness.”
The Post’s story is a new variation on the familiar tactic of drought-shaming. As the parched state continues to break drought records, some residents have resolved to publicly shame neighbors who waste water by letting sprinklers run too long or washing cars too often. There’s even an app to report neighborhood water-wasters.
There may be at least one good reason for doing this: California imposes fines of up to $500 on residents who do things like wash cars with running hoses or water lawns between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. That’s being taken a step further under the new emergency law.
But while cities and water districts can be fined up to $10,000 if they don’t reach their targets, the maximum fine for individuals like Kim Kardashian or Barbara Streisand is “a paltry $100,” according to the Post. So while the prospect of drought-shaming may motivate regular people to avoid fines, the Post implies that celebrity families don’t have much monetary incentive to discontinue excessive water use.
Celebrities are one thing, but as others have pointed out, a $100 or even $500 fine may not be strong enough to disincentivize even moderately well-off families from using lots of water. That’s why some have suggested tiered pricing, a system where customers are allowed to use a certain amount of water at the cheapest rate, and then every gallon over that allotment costs more. How much homeowners can use, and the rate of increased cost, are based on things like the property size, and the number of people living in the household.
Still, with Kim Kardashian making $28 million a year, the monetary penalty under a tiered pricing system may still not be enough to warrant the sacrifice of an Instagram-worthy lawn. It’s possible, in her case, that public shaming might work a bit better.