#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 7°C Thursday 22 October 2020

Caught in the act: People are shaming their neighbours for wasting water

People are videoing people wasting water and posting it online.

WE’VE HAD SOME pretty nice weather of late, but not enough to cause a drought, by any means.

If there was one and you caught your neighbours wasting water by watering their lawns, would you rat them out? That’s exactly what people stateside are doing.

Drought shaming

If you live in Southern California, you’d better wait until after midnight to water the lawn, otherwise, you could wind up the star of the latest drought-shaming video posted on YouTube or Twitter.

Tony Corcoran Tony Corcoran records sprinklers watering the lawn at a house in Beverly Hills. Source: AP

“Yeah, I put your address out there. The world is watching a lot more,” says Tony Corcoran, one of several people who spend their spare time these days canvassing the communities of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and elsewhere, looking for people wasting water during the worst California drought in recent memory.

YouTube videos 

Corcoran alone estimates he’s put up on YouTube more than 100 videos of water-wasters, complete with their addresses.

Others tweet out addresses and photos of water scofflaws, using hashtags such as #DroughtShaming. Still others are snapping smartphone photos of them and sending them directly to authorities.

Not everyone is happy about it.

Patricia Perez Patricia Perez shows the picture of a broken sprinkler head she photographed in her office in Los Angeles. Source: AP

One woman, quickly tiring of Corcoran’s lecture on conservation while she watered her plants, turned her hose on him.

Wasting water 

In Beverly Hills, where he was showing a reporter and photographer water running down the street in front of a mansion, the angry resident called police. Two patrol cars quickly responded, but the officers took no action.

In Hollywood, Sam Bakman, who manages a condominium complex, said his building was recently shamed wrongly by somebody on Twitter over a broken sprinkler head that was quickly repaired. He showed a reporter the city-issued restrictions on watering and pointed out his sprinkler timers fall well within the guidelines.

“If they thought we were doing something wrong, why not come knock on my door?”

Dan Estes Dan Estes, a Los Angeles real estate broker, pauses for photos with a water hose in Los Angeles.

Dan Estes Dan Estes with his smartphone showing the app that he built to record the time and place where he sees waste in Los Angeles.

Corcoran, a restaurant group administrator who kept his New York attitude when he came to laid-back Los Angeles awhile ago, is unrepentant.

“The whole point is to get people to change, not to shame.”

With California in the fourth year of a drought with no end in sight, the governor has ordered everyone to use 25 percent less water, and drought shamers say the easiest way to accomplish that is to quit watering your yard. Or at least be careful about it and not let water spill into the street.

Tony Corcoran Tony Corcoran surveys water coming out of a drain in Beverly Hills.

“I was a passenger in a car driving by, and first I noticed water down the street. And when we drove up, I saw the broken sprinkler head,” said Patricia Perez of Eagle Rock who quickly tweeted out a picture of the mess. She also emailed it to the local water agency.

Tony Corcoran Tony Corcoran drives through the neighborhoods looking for people wasting water. Source: AP

“When you’re trying to do your best personally, and you’re trying to conserve water, it’s very irritating,” she said of one of the reasons behind drought shaming.

Dan Estes, a Los Angeles real estate broker, has gone so far as to build his own free app, DroughtShame, that records the time and place where people see waste.

Tony Corcoran Sprinklers watering the lawn in front of a house.

Unlike some other drought shamers, he doesn’t believe in getting in people’s faces or outing them to the world. Instead, people who use his app send the information and a photograph to him, and he forwards it to the appropriate water agency.

“I drought shamed the preschool next to my apartment,” Estes said. “Timer was off on their sprinklers. Those things were on for five hours, and the sidewalk was a river. I was non-confrontational, but at the same time, public.”

Twenty minutes after he reported it, Estes said, the sprinklers were shut off.

What do you think?

Poll: Would you do this if there was a drought going on in Ireland? 

Poll Results:

No way (1487)
Yes, it's so wasteful (1033)
I don't know (343)

Read: “The bills had been piling up – then this happened” – Dublin man who just picked up €500,000 in lottery win>

Read: The UK is staring down the barrel of a massive loss on Ulster Bank parent RBS>

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next: