Want to Water During a Water Shortage? Plant New Landscaping!

The Southeast is having serious water shortages. Just look at Lake Lanier, the main water source for Atlanta.


So, what do you do when you live in Palm Beach, FL, there is a water shortage, fines for washing your car or watering your lawn except during specified hours, and serious enforcement efforts in place? The Journal’s Robert Frank tells us:

…According to the rules, residents who put in “new landscaping” can water three days a week, instead of the usual one, for 30 days after the planting. Once that period ends, homeowners can plant yet again — and resume the thrice-a-week watering. That has led some Palm Beachers to put in new trees, shrubs and turf — often at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per residence — just so they can run their irrigation systems more frequently.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said he returned to Palm Beach after the summer and found that he had the only brown lawn on the block. “When I asked everyone how they were watering, they all said ‘new plantings,’ ” he said. “So that’s the loophole. We’re all just ripping out the old lawn and shrubs and putting in new ones.”

Now, if that doesn’t irritate you, check this out–under Florida’s rules in Palm Beach, if you use a lot of water, you just pay a surcharge. So, guess what the fabulously rich do? Use all the water they want and pay a surchage:

Consider Nelson Peltz. The investor and food magnate’s oceanfront estate, called Montsorrel, is among the island’s biggest water consumers. His 13.8-acre spread, which combines two properties, used not quite 21 million gallons of water over the past 12 months — or about 57,000 gallons a day on average — at a cost of more than $50,000, according to records obtained from the local water utility. That compares with 54,000 gallons a year for an average single-family residence in Palm Beach, says Ken Rearden, assistant city administrator of West Palm Beach. (West Palm Beach supplies Palm Beach’s water.)

Yes, an average home uses $54,00 gallons a year. Compare that to some Palm Beach mansion owners:


Some Palm Beach estates use huge amounts of water despite the city’s restrictions. Chart shows gallons consumed in the 12 months ended Oct. 1, 2007.
Nelson Peltz
13.8 acres 20,863,216
Dwight Schar
Executive chairman, home-builder NVR
6 acres 12,155,000
William L. Koch
President, mining concern Oxbow
7 acres 4,519,416
James H. Clark
Netscape co-founder
5 acres 3,452,020
Sydell Miller
Co-founder, Matrix hair-care products
4 acres 1,032,240
*second property; **adjoining property he owns


  1. It’s really quite touching to see this level of personal responsibility and civic virtue.

    The US of A… that magical land where you can be five years old for your whole life.

  2. FWIW, the rich in America do face consequences for their wrongdoing. Not as much as the poor. While these guys are being selfish, I wouldn’t be surprised to find worse and unchecked selfishness in other countries.

  3. They… do? Are we in the same America, Chris?

  4. The “it’s worse somewhere else” line. I love that one. Comparing ourselves to the lowest bar one can find; is that as good as these pathetic souls think we can be? Slightly better than the worst? That’s sad.

    Consequences. Nelson Peltz is a billionaire. If he had no income other than his accumulated wealth (altho he does) and he got a poor return on his money, he’d have at least $50 million a year. So his water bill — the “consequences” in this case — is like a water bill of $5 for someone making $50,000/yr. That’s not really much of a “consequence”, certainly not enough to change one’s behavior by itself. I make way less than $50,000/yr. and a bill of $5/yr. wouldn’t phase me in the slightest.

    How about a cutoff point, an upper limit? Or, since I’ll wager Nelson Peltz is an avid “free” market guy, make a small limit but allow him to buy other local people’s water directly from them at whatever price they want to agree on. He can afford, say, $50 a gallon to keep his estate blossoming, and if he really agrees with a free market, he’d jump at this solution. How much you want to bet he doesn’t really believe in a free market (“free” market boosters never do).

  5. Sorry, that should $50/yr. for someone making $50,000/yr.

  6. Billy (A Liberal Disabled Vet)

    Chris: There are always consequences for wrong doing. Unfortunately, in today’s America, the consequences do not fall on the individual committing the wrong doing. The wealthy use a natural resource not caring about how much they use (after all, they can afford it, right?) and then the poor and, increasingly, the middle class get hit with the consequences.

    The rich can buy an H2 (all the weight of a Suburban, but screw aerodynamics) and can afford to fill it with gasoline. Ditto for the thousands of non-fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. I end up paying $3.09.9 at the pump and consider myself lucky.

    The rich can lobby for lower taxes (and are now refering to it as a civil rights issue) and then contract privately to fulfill government functions. I see the cost of college for my children sky-rocketing, schools falling apart (in my PA small city, literally), fewer police, fewer firehouses, poor roads.

    Luckily, although we do have occasional droughts in PA, as well as occasional rationing, we have nothing (so far) like GA and FL.

    The world (including the US (no matter how much some segments of the population deny it, we are part of the world)) needs to find a way to link bad behavior with consequences, and link the consequences to the person doing bad (I know, dream on).

    My father laments the downfall of old-fashioned Republicanism — the steel-rimmed-spectacled small-business-owning Main Street conservatives. I don’t remember them (I came of political age during the Reagan years and the first vote I cast was for Mondale (who, arguably, was an old-fashioned conservative)) but I have read enough (and talked to enough elderly (sorry, chronologically enhanced) people) to have a good idea of what conservatism used to be: keep government small enough to be affordable but big enough to do the job, and keep taxes low enough to be non-confiscatory but high enough to pay for what is being done.

    The water problem in GA and FL is partly natural (leaving aside the man-made nature of climate change) but moreso a political choice. The lawmakers want low taxes so they can be reelected. The populace wants low taxes because that feels good now. But when the bill comes due for negelected infrastructure, look how fast the lawmakers come up with excuses, and look who gets left with the bill. Will it be the rich, who created the problem? Yeah. Right. Or will it be me (and the rest of the vanishing middle class) left to pay?

    Sorry for the rant. Sorry for rambling. Rambling is sort of an occupational hazard for me, so I apologize.

    Who needs mind altering drugs when we have . . .

  7. Old style conservatism is dead – it was displaced by the rise of the new social conservatism. They were forced to choose beween small government or a string of invented moral outrages, and they choose the latter.

  8. Billy (A Liberal Disabled Vet)

    Thanks. Now I’m even more depressed. I’ll just go drown myself. Oh. Wait. I can’t. It’s on some millionaires lawn. (LOL) 🙂

  9. valhar2000

    Given that there are fewer rich people than poor people, are the excesses of the rich that much of a problem, relative to the total? They are a moral outrage, I’ll give you that, but do all these gallons add up to a noticeable figure, compared to what is used by the millions of people who earn enough money to make a living and water their lawns now and then?

  10. We’re living in Atlanta right now, and continued overuse of water is a real problem. With a reported 66 days of water left, the governor has been slow to recommend any cutbacks, and slower to ask that any cutbacks be enforced. His solution – pray for rain. ‘Cause he’s more comfortable pestering God than business.

  11. Check out atlanta water shortage. They’re going a great job covering the ins and outs of a true reality check for Republicans. Keep prayin’ Sonny, governments not the problem, God is.
    Mark..But will they learn..this is looking like another GiveUp test case.

  12. Caledonian

    The lesson: legal loopholes will always be exploited by those with the resources to do so.

  13. Remember, if its legal on a loophole, its ok!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *