Ice Bucket Challenge stirs controversy in drought-plagued California


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.


#ALSIceBucketChallenge WE ARE IN a DROUGHT. imagine if everyone put this much effort for that?!? #IceBucketChallenge #ALS #droughtshaming,” wrote one Twitter user.

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.”

“Let’s do another Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money & awareness for the California Drought. #IceBucketChallenge #droughtshaming #irony,” one twitter user said Monday.

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