Californians Are Taking To Twitter To Shame Neighbors Who Waste Water

A sprinkler system sprays water onto a parked car along the curb in Glendale, Calif., Wednesday, July 9, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT HAMILTON
A sprinkler system sprays water onto a parked car along the curb in Glendale, Calif., Wednesday, July 9, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT HAMILTON

When water becomes a precious commodity in California, things get ugly.

Californians are taking to social media to call out neighbors and businesses that are wasting water amid the state’s extreme drought. As ABC News reports, disgruntled Californians are snapping photos of the offending lawns, sidewalks, golf courses and baseball fields and uploading them to social media accounts, using the hashtag #DroughtShaming.

Some even go so far as to add an address for the water-waster.

Along with using Twitter to call out neighbors, California residents can also use an app to document water-wasters near them. The app, which was designed in April to allow users to report things like lost pets in their neighborhoods, added the option to report drought offenders after they saw that the #DroughtShaming campaign had taken off.

But despite these efforts, Felicia Marcus, Chair at the California State Water Resources Control Board, told ABC News that the Water Resources Control Board isn’t monitoring Twitter to try to spot water-wasters. Neighbors can call their city’s drought hotlines to report residents or businesses using an excessive amount of water, numbers which since water usage restrictions were put in place earlier this month have seen record high phone calls. Or, Marcus said, they can try approaching their neighbors about their water usage.

“We appreciate the fact that residents are engaged,” Marcus said. “They can talk to their neighbors. If they don’t feel like their neighbors are listening, they should let the local water board know.”

Earlier this month, California agreed to impose fines of up to $500 on residents who were caught doing things like washing cars with running hoses, watering lawns between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and letting water from outdoor sprinklers run down sidewalks. The fines came after a report that found voluntary water reductions weren’t working — in fact, water consumption had increased 1 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the report.

Even residents who try to comply with the water restrictions, however, can still be hit by fines. One couple in Glendora, California who stopped watering their lawn got a letter from the city that threatened to fine them up to $500 if their lawn remained brown.

“Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green,” the letter read.

Some are turning to creative ways of keeping their lawns green — a gym in California is using a special trademarked paint to turn its brown grass green. The gym paid the paint company about $600 to come and spraypaint their lawn, and the treatment should last up to six months. For an average residential lawn, the treatment costs around $175.

There are far cheaper ways of maintaining a lawn — just maybe not a grass one — in the midst of a drought, however. This summer, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power upped its “cash for grass” rebate to $3 for every foot of grass residents replace with local, drought-resistant plants. As California’s extreme drought persists, these desert-friendly lawns may need to become more of the norm: one environmental expert told the New York Times last August that the “era of the lawn in the West is over.”