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Californians Confess Their Water-Wasting ‘Sins’ To The Water Czar

Some California residents are seeking absolution from the state’s water czar for overusing water during a multi-year drought.

A New York Times profile of Felicia Marcus, who heads the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), detailed how some Californians are confessing their “water sins” to Marcus or looking for ways to rat on their neighbors.

“I see people, and the first thing they want to tell me, they want to do, is confess their water sins,” Marcus told The New York Times in an interview. “Oh, my God — I feel sort of bad about it.”

In one instance, a friend of Marcus brought her daughter before the water czar, according to The Times. “She was like, ‘Will you tell her to take shorter showers?’ ” Marcus said. “I’ve had people text me photos of some woman up the way who was over-watering her lawn. I’ll text back and say: ‘What water district are you in? Call them.’”

Marcus was appointed to lead SWRCB by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. She had previously served as an attorney and EPA regional administrator under President Bill Clinton. The SWRCB’s power in recent months has been greatly expanded as Gov. Brown continues to impose harsh water restrictions on state residents.

California has been stuck in a four-year drought, which Gov. Brown has blamed on global warming. Brown’s new water regime requires the state to cut water use by 25 percent, and it’s being enforced through a system of harsh fines for those who overuse water for even daily activities like showering or watering lawns.

State residents have even been encouraged to tattle on one another for wasting water: a new phenomenon called “drought shaming.”

The Times reports that Marcus has cut her own water use by not waiting “for the water to warm up before dashing into the shower” also noting that “her car is caked with grime and grit.” Marcus, however, lives in an apartment with her husband and is therefore immune to strict state regulations imposed on watering lawns and gardening.

“She’s been really great for us — she’s an environmentalist through and through,” Dan Jacobson, legislative director of the green group Environment California, told The Times.

Despite the tough water restrictions and her popularity with eco-activists, Marcus is not optimistic about California’s water situation.

“The rainy season is over. We know we are in for an awful summer. Dealing with folks out of work. Communities running out of water. I mean the fish and wildlife outcomes alone are pretty horrendous,” she said.

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