Despite new restrictions, some Orange County officials increase water use

In this era of drought and new mandatory water regulations, everybody’s personal water usage is fair game.

The Orange County Register examined the utility bills of dozens of Orange County officials and published its findings this week.

“The Register analysis found just as many are consuming more water despite California’s severe drought.

“Their explanations vary. Officials who are using less water heralded installing more efficient sprinkler systems, allowing their lawns to brown and paying closer attention to bills for signs of leaks.

“My lawn is not the nicest lawn on the street,” said Justin McCusker, a Santa Margarita Water District director whose family cut water use by more than 20 percent from 2010 to last year. “I have allowed it to go on life support, and that’s probably an understatement.”

But not everyone fared so well under the scrutiny. “Several officials said they were unaware of household leaks or their growing household water consumption until the Register obtained their utility bills under state public records laws. Though individual bills are normally confidential, state law allows the release of many public officials’ records upon request.”

A look at water use countywide seems to indicate economic activity has more impact on water usage than any government regulation. The hotter the economy, the more water gets used.