Which Neighborhoods Are the Biggest Water Guzzlers?

Where do the biggest users and abusers live?

We've all become keenly aware of our water use -- from turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth to silently criticizing neighbors whose sprinklers go off on the wrong days. But we wanted to know, do guzzlers gather in certain areas? And, just where do the biggest users and abusers live?

A study from the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, and funded by the National Science Foundation, analyzed 10 years of data, looking at location, income, landscape greenness, water rates and climate information. It examined single family homes in 13 neighborhoods across the Southland and came up with some interesting tidbits.

Downtown: First, the study divided the Southland into three geographic areas."Downtown" consists of Florence, Koreatown, Leimert Park, Mid-Wilshire, Silver Lake and downtown Los Angeles itself. Income levels are among the lowest while unemployment rates are highest. Many residents are below the poverty level. These neighborhoods have larger Latino populations, fewer residential green spaces and lower water usage.

Coastal Neighborhoods: The study broke "Coastal Neighborhoods" into two categories. There are dense neighborhoods, like Venice and Playa Vista, as well as the expansive coastal neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. But both areas share a number of characteristics: higher White population, higher education and income levels, and lower household sizes. Venice and Playa Vista also have some of the lowest water use with Venice residents actually the driest. The study found several reasons, including the densely packed population, smaller households and smaller lot sizes. And, in the case of Playa Vista, all green space is irrigated with recycled water. Pacific Palisades, on the other hand, has the highest average income and also the highest average water use.

Valley Neighborhoods: The last area includes the "Valley Neighborhoods," made up of Reseda, Pacoima, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks. Sherman Oaks has the highest income and also a higher White population. Reseda, Pacoima and North Hollywood have more Latino residents. These areas have more single detached homes, larger lots and more space that needs irrigation. They also tend to have higher water use, with Sherman Oaks turning on the faucet the most.

But the three areas also have a lot in common.

All across the city, 54 percent of a home's water is used outside. When water restrictions kick in, and people cut back on their watering, the green-ness of their yards doesn't seem to change. The study concluded that's because most people are overwatering when there are no restrictions in place.

There are clusters of what the study calls "water use patterns." There's higher water use in the northern areas, where temperatures are warmer and residents have more money. There's lower consumption in the less affluent areas near downtown Los Angeles

Not surprisingly, these wealthier neighborhoods use three times the amount of water than those with lower incomes. But when water prices increase, everyone cuts back.

The study also concludes that voluntary water restrictions alone seem to do very little to get people to reduce their water use. But when it becomes mandatory, the water stops flowing so freely. And, mandatory restrictions combined with higher prices seem slow the flow the most.

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