Some A-list celebrities with million-dollar mansions in and around the Los Angeles County city of Calabasas have a water budget like any other house in the local water district, butmany were found to have exceeded their allotted amount.
“It’s been like this for 3 to 4 weeks,” Mike Hazan said, referring to the brown grass outside his Agoura Hills home. “That stinks a bit.”
Since the drought emergency went into effect last December in the Las Virgenes Water District, people have been asked to conserve.
Watering is only allowed once a week and everyone has a water budget. Anyone who exceeds it can be hit with financial penalties. Staying within budget resulted in brown grass in Hazan’s house.
“I think I’m doing my part. I’m trying to do my part,” Hazan said.
While he fulfills his role, the water district serves about 75,000 residents and relies on a water supply that is dangerously low. The district encompasses the rolling hills of multi-million dollar estates in the western part of the county.
According to public water district records obtained by CBS LA, some celebrities are not following the rules that everyone must follow.
For example: reality star Kourtney Kardashian, who lives in an $8 million home in Calabasas. Water records obtained by CBS LA show the home, which is registered as a trust, used 245 percent of its allotted water budget in May — the fourth month it has gone over budget.
Sylvester Stallone’s $18 million town-and-gated estate near Calabasas, Hidden Hills, is also on the list of those that went over budget by at least four months. The documents show that the account in his wife’s name used 351% of its budget in May.
Water records in the name of Howie Mandel’s wife show that they used 241% of their water budget in May, also the fourth month.
CBS2 also found that rapper The Game’s Calabasas home is on the list of those going over budget for at least four months.
“The state of the water supply is very dire,” said Joe McDermott of the Las Virgenes Water District.
McDermott said anyone who goes over 200% of their budget for at least two months pays a water penalty in a bid to get them to save. For some people, however, money flows like water.
“For those clients who are very wealthy and have a lot of … cash, financial sanctions don’t necessarily work,” McDermott said. “We don’t think you can just buy your way out of the drought. Everyone has to do their part. This is very serious.”
This district has developed a plan.
“It’s pretty quick and painless as far as installation goes,” said a plumbing official.
A small disc placed in the water meter pipe of the offenders’ homes reduces the flow of water from 26 gallons per minute to much, much less, forcing people to conserve.
“The most you can get is just under a gallon per minute,” the water district official said. “I actually tested one in my home.”
Asked what the experience was like, he didn’t hesitate.
“It wasn’t great,” he said.
The flow limiter is reserved for the worst offenders with four or more months over budget. That means all the celebrities discovered by CBS LA are slated to get one, and some already have.
Kevin Hart got one. Records obtained by CBS LA show a flow restrictor was installed at his Calabasas home. After two weeks it was removed.
Another Calabasas estate whose account is listed in the name of Michael Jackson’s estate also had a flow restrictor on for two weeks.
Yet another home with a flow restrictor has a water bill in the rapper Nas’ real name.
Officials say some people, though they won’t say who, tried to pay their way.
“Some have asked us to remove it and how much it would cost to remove it, in which case I refuse,” McDermott said.
Asked if they were trying to pay extra to get rid of the flow restrictor, McDermott said yes. CBS2 then asked the Las Virgenes Water District representative if he thought this was fair to the average person in their area.
“It’s not fair,” he said.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is doing her part, but she’s also on the waiting list for a limiter because she used too much water. But now she’s installing artificial grass and drought-tolerant plants, and says she’s cut down on water use.
“You’re known for environmental causes, yet you’re listed as a water trespasser?” CBS LA investigative reporter David Goldstein asked Brockovich.
“In the past there have been months where I’ve been beyond what I can use. I was fined. I paid those fines and took very quick action,” she replied.
For residents like Hazan, who are suffering from the drought, the hope is that everyone will get the message.
“Hopefully we can come out of this and have green lawns again,” he said.
Sylvester Stallone’s attorney, Marty Singer, provided CBS LA with a statement that read: “Regarding your upcoming story about water use in the Hidden Hills area, we are concerned that it may mischaracterize and misrepresent the situation in regarding the use of water in my client’s property. They have more than 500 mature trees on the property, including countless fruit trees as well as pine trees. In the absence of sufficient watering, in all likelihood, they would die. This could result in dead or damaged trees falling onto my client’s property or neighboring properties. My client handled the situation responsibly and proactively. They let the grasses die and other areas are irrigated through a drip irrigation system. They have also notified the city about the mature trees and are awaiting an inspection and further instructions from the city on how to proceed. I’m sure all the bigger properties in the area have similar problems. Therefore, I believe that my client will not be disappointed to be casually featured in the story because he is a famous person.”
Louis Kay, a representative for Howie Mandel, provided CBS2 with the following statement: “I can’t speak to the data you’re looking at, but Howie sent us the attached bills from May and June that highlight the decrease in usage since the site restrictions were put in place. He has not heard from anyone that there is any problem until this email.”