California Deploying Drought Surveillance Tools to Punish Petty Water Wasters

April 15, 2015   |   Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson
April 15, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) As California enters its fourth year of devastating drought, the state government, led by Governor Jerry Brown, has started scrambling to conserve what little water it can by mandating that Californians slash their water consumption by 25% by the end of the year. The state’s conservation plan is designed to impose the greatest reductions on water districts with the highest per-capita water consumption, so districts that have already implemented serious conservation measures won’t be forced to add to drastic cuts that they have made already. Of course, the measures are hardly impacting the greatest water wasters in the state, which is big industry and animal agriculture in particular.

Though this plan seems equitable on the surface, CA water authorities are deploying some curious new tools to identify water wasters and hold them accountable on an individual scale. Authorities in Long Beach have started to install Smart Meter devices, which detect individual homes’ or businesses’ water consumption, transmitting news about illegal water consumption back to the Long Beach Water Department in real time. Once a suspected water criminal is located, a water agent is sent to the location to gather video evidence of the waste. The Department imposed its first fine this month; $800 to a local McDonald’s with an overenthusiastic sprinkler setup. The Department isn’t installing its Smart Meters on all homes and businesses, of course. That would be far too expensive. Instead, the LBWD installs the meters only at locations that have been reported by concerned citizens.

Though the Smart Meter certainly makes enforcement of water restrictions a lot more direct, it’s troubling that this tool, which targets individual users, is garnering so much praise from the government and the media. In point of fact, individual homes and businesses aren’t the real culprits in California’s mounting water crisis. According to the California Department of Water Resources, 80% of California’s water goes to agriculture, while the bottled-water industry pumps water right from some of the state’s most drought-ridden regions.

In light of these facts, Governor Brown’s sudden restrictions on individual districts’ water use, and the subsequent incentive for district water departments to impose Smart Meters on potential offenders, it looks like a red herring meant to direct attention away from the larger problem. As more and more citizens object to the Orwellian prospect of being targeted for surveillance and retribution by their local districts for infractions at the micro scale, little is being done to address the fact that the citizens of California are being forced to cut back because of water consumed by industry and agriculture for goods that will be sold outside the state. With the system of water rights in California as complex and antiquated as it is, corporations (agricultural and otherwise) are able to get away with what some groups are qualifying as outright theft.

Ultimately, individual-level conservation measures aren’t going to get California out of this drought, which has serious implications not only for Californians, but for food prices all over the United States. According to an editorial by NASA researcher Jay Famiglietti, California only has a year’s worth of water left, and it’s going to take some serious changes to state water policy for drought mitigation efforts to recharge California’s aquifers. In spite of recent storms to hit the state, NASA says that it will take many years for the state to emerge from current drought conditions.

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Author: Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in April of 2015. His topics of interest include social justice, science, corporatocracy, and dystopian science fiction. He currently resides in Escondido, California.

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  1. Haha You fucktard's wait till it's almost to late to do anything it not like you did not have 10+year's…

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  2. who in their right mind would move to a place with low water levels/reserves? reminds me of them folks that build their homes in tornado ally,what did they expect was gonna happen?

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  3. Unfortunately, the author of this article didn't even do any basic math to figure out how much water the 38 million people of California actually use, and how much of that water is unrecoverable without heroic efforts. Water used in agriculture is not wasted water. It results in food, which one notes is a necessary fact of life, and most of that water is returned to the environment. Meanwhile the average person flushes a toilet 3-5 times a day, using 1.6 gallons of clean drinkable water that is now pollution that cannot be recovered without massive expenditures of energy and material. 38 million people times 4 flushes times 1.6 gallons—EVERY SINGLE DAY. Think about it. Read "The Humanure Handbook" by Joseph Jenkins. The apocalypse is here. You can either get on board, or you will drink dust.

    Me, I'm saving up for the cheap real estate that's going to be all over CA in a few years. I think I want to settle in the Ojai Valley. Once all the people clear out because they can't figure out how to live in an arid climate without importing unconscionable amounts of water from far away, there will be plenty of water for smarter people to thrive.

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  4. You make valid points regarding the various types of water usage, but good like buying in the Ojai Valley or any other agriculture-centered area. Big Ag is just waiting for all of those small family-based farming operations to fail so that they can come in and grab all of that property. More prime agricultural property to succumb to the unsustainable farming practices of Big Ag.

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  5. Citizens keep thinking their legislators are going to watch out for them? Whether local, county, or state, legislators are all looking out for industry above citizens. That's an important balance, e.g. people DO need jobs but when we already know that ag could use water more efficiently, why aren't people clamoring for those changes? Why are we allowing our policy-makers to ignore the proven consequences of fracking and the impact on water? Water thieves like Nestle, stealing water like they do! If the legislators thought it was important they would have already done it. Now it's up to you!

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  6. What a convenient way to get people on board with permitting home surveillance systems. Getting the public to do as you please works so much easier if it is explained how it will "help" them.

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