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California

The suspect list narrows: Who is the ‘Wet Prince of Bel-Air’?

Bel-Air sign
The East Gate entrance to Bel-Air at Beverly Glen and Sunset boulevards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Who’s the homeowner who managed to use 11.8-million gallons of water in a single year? The city isn’t naming names, but the Center for Investigative Reporting has narrowed down the list to seven likely suspects.

The California-based nonprofit news organization broke the story of the “Wet Prince of Bel Air” in October 2015. On Monday, the center released a follow-up story naming seven residents who may be the culprit — “Bel-Air’s wet princes and princesses.”

Reporters used satellite images, mapping software, drought and deforestation algorithms, and landscape planning equations to come up with the list. (Columnist Steve Lopez attempted to track down the water waster last fall, but was unable to conclusively identify the perp.)

The L.A. Department of Water and Power has declined to name the customer responsible for pumping 32,000 gallons of water a day during one of the state’s most severe droughts. Nineteen homes in Bel-Air and 32 in adjacent Beverly Hills use more than 7,600 gallons of water a day, according to the DWP. The average Californian uses between 57.9 and 165.6 gallons a day, according to a 2015 study from the state water control board.

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Call these mega-water users Bel-Air’s wet princes and princesses.
The Center for Investigative Reporting

Technically speaking, the “Wet Prince” hasn’t broken any laws: You’re allowed to use as much water as you can pay for. In this case, the annual bill for that level of use comes out to roughly $90,000.

The 11.8-million-gallon figure comes from the billing period between April 2014 and April 2015, so it’s possible that some of these homeowners have taken steps to reduce their consumption since then. When reached for comment by the Center for Investigative Reporting, former Warner Bros. Chairman Robert Daly said he’d cut back his water use by 35% since 2014, and Beverly Hilton Hotel owner Beny Alagem said he’d hired a landscaping company to help reduce excessive H20 usage.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill this month requiring water districts to crack down on excessive water use during droughts. It would also make it easier to publicly name major offenders, so whoever the Wet Prince (or Princess) of Bel-Air is, his life’s about to get turned upside-down.

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Read CIR’s full report here, including the water suspects, who range from Hollywood moguls to a Walmart heiress.

jessica.roy@latimes.com

Twitter: @jessica_roy

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