A nudist resort in Los Gatos struggling to stay afloat during California's drought has been accused of stealing more than 280,000 gallons of water from a local creek, which authorities say sustains area wildlife.
Authorities from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District said the clothing-optional Lupin Lodge has been warned in the past about its efforts to divert water from 117-acre Hendrys Creek to maintain its residential properties, spa/resort, camping facility and restaurant.
The lodge was allegedly stealing about 6,000 gallons of creek water per day for more than seven weeks, Assistant General Manager Kevin Woodhouse said.
But Lupin Lodge owners say they have a historic right to the water, which they said they have used since a drought in the 1970s and maintain to support fire suppression efforts.
District officials said the lodge has not such historic rights.
“The water source for Hendry’s Creek is a spring-fed waterfall. The water is tapering off and what water there is, is going on the ground instead of used for people and fire suppression,” Lodge owner Lori Kay Stout said.
After several actions, notices and talks between the two sides, district officials went to the resort and removed thousands of feet of irrigation line they said had been installed to divert creek water.
The district plans to heighten patrols of the property to ensure lodge workers don’t attempt to steal water again, Woodhouse said
Water from the creek feeds the Los Gatos Creek, recharges groundwater, travels to the Guadalupe River Watershed, which provides drinking water to the Silicon Valley, and then connects to San Francisco Bay.
Established in 1935, the lodge, which can house as many as 65 residents, began to feel the effects of the drought this summer, Stout said.
Lodge owners have been trucking in water to support the property’s wells and asked visitors to bring three gallons of water with them during their stay.
"We haven't had this happen since the 1970s drought," she said.
Relying on wells and a massive pool for water, the lodge streamlined its restaurant menu, let lawns go brown and advised guests to take short, quick showers, Stout said.