Ice Bucket Challenge stirs controversy in drought-plagued California
An animal’s footprint is molded into dry, cracked earth in a dry riverbed near a Castaic Lake bridge. Extremely low levels of water at sunrise at Castaic Lake and reveal the effects of the prolonged drought March 8, 2014.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A pre-dawn glow illuminates a narrow, shallow meandering stream flowing in San Gabriel River’s East Fork in the Angeles National Forest, which reveal the effects of the prolonged drought March 12, 2014.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A white rocky ring reveals low levels of water in the Morris Dam, just north of Azusa in the Angeles National Forest, reflecting the effects of the prolonged drought March 12, 2014.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dry ruts in a island reveal where the water level used to be at Lake Shasta due to serious drought conditions. Lake Shasta is at 31% of capacity due to the ongoing drought and is likely to get worse.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Severe drought conditions are evident as dried bark peels in the hot sun where water levels are down 160 feet from the high water mark at Lake Oroville June 21, 2014. Officials say Lake Oroville is at 43% capacity and likely to get worse, but is not as bad as the drought of 1976-77.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Fallen tree branches and a narrow body of water receding into Lake Shasta at dusk reveal signs of serious drought conditions June 22, 2014. Lake Shasta is at 37% of capacity due to the ongoing drought and is likely to get worse.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A boater speeds under the New Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridge as severe drought conditions show the water down 160 feet from the high water mark at Lake Oroville on June 21, 2014. Officials say Lake Oroville is at 43% capacity and is likely to get worse, but is not as bad as the drought of 1976-77.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Severe drought conditions are evident as a lone houseboat is dwarfed by steep banks that show the water level down 160 feet from the high water mark at Lake Oroville on June 21, 2014. Receding water levels are revealing prehistoric and historic artifacts such as bedrock mortars and projectile points made by the Maidu people and remnants of placer and dredge mining that thrived here after John Bidwell discovered gold in 1848.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The simple act of dumping ice water onto one’s head has turned into one of the most viral feel-good campaigns of 2014.
More than 2 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos featuring tech giants such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have helped raised more than $20 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research and awareness since July 29.
But for some Californians stuck in an exceptional drought, watching people douse themselves with ice water flies in the face of the conservation rhetoric being stressed by state and local officials.
In an email, DWP spokeswoman Michelle Vargas said: “There are plenty of ways that L.A. residents can take the Ice Bucket Challenge and not waste water.” She then referred to an article that offers what the utility, on Twitter, called “common-sense advice” such as skipping a shower or recycling the water used for the challenge.
On Monday, Los Angeles officials announced that they are beefing up their water-wasting patrols following the adoption of new state rules that allow fines for water wasters.
The DWP had been assigning one inspector to drive around handling complaints of water wasting in a city of 4 million people. Now the DWP has four water-use inspectors who roam the streets in specially marked cars.
Los Angeles is in Phase 2 of a mandatory water conservation ordinance. Among other restrictions, that means watering no more than three times a week and never on Saturdays and not being able to wash a car unless one uses a self-closing, water shut-off nozzle. A dry fall and winter in California would bring Phase 3, which would result in much harsher restrictions such as prohibitions. Failure to abide by the rules after getting a warning could result in fines of several hundred dollars.
On Friday, The Daily Currant posted a story headlined “California Fining ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ Participants for Wasting Water,"which made its way through social media and was picked up by various outlets before some realized the story was satirical.
By Monday, people were using the #droughtshaming hashtag on Twitter to criticize the Ice Bucket Challenge as wasteful. A Long Beach Post story performed some quick calculations and concluded that “nearly 19,000 homes’ daily water usage has been wasted.”
Follow @MattStevensLAT for Westside coverage and breaking news
Get breaking news, investigations, analysis and more signature journalism from the Los Angeles Times in your inbox.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.