Lifestyles of the Rich and Richer: Oprah Shipping in Drought Water to Massive Montecito Estate

Bianca Barragan

Montecito in Santa Barbara County is home (at least part-time) to tons of shit-rich over-40 types: Google's Eric Schmidt, Ellen DeGeneres, George Lucas, Oprah, and "just about everyone in the industry," in the words of a real estate agent who works in the area. You know, creative types. So when Montecito (a rich but dry little section of California surrounded by areas more well-endowed by water) increased restrictions on water usage in response to the massive statewide drought, these crafty, wealthy folks figured out some big-time workarounds, like calling a polo field an agricultural area and having water trucked in from nearby towns. Oprah, for instance, has cut water usage in half at her 40-acre estate—which she calls the Promised Land—by using well water, taking advantage of "a small lake," and taking in massive tanker-truck shipments of water every day before 7 am, reports Politico.

Meanwhile, the area's biggest residential water user in 2012 and 2013 was Pat Nesbitt, the CEO of Windsor Capital, which owns a major part of Embassy Suites. His plan for getting around water restrictions: try and get the polo field on his 20-acre estate to qualify for a discounted agricultural water rate. So far, he's sued the water district twice in an attempt to convince them (no dice!).

There are also many rich Montecitans like Oprah who are just restricting the water they use from the Montecito Water District and making up the difference by buying their water from somewhere else nearby. (Come on, they're rich! They can't just scale back like the rest of us.) A columnist who writes for the Montecito Journal estimated that the Richie Riches who are doing this are "paying as much as $15,000 a month for trucked-in water." Oprah's neighbors say they've seen trucks outside the gates of her 40-acre estate; that same columnist estimates that about a third of the entire town is shipping in water. Since the water generally comes from neighboring areas, the trucking doesn't help with the drought any, it just skirts local regulations.

Montecito's now looking into recommissioning a desalination plant it had previously thought not worth it.
· Lifestyles of the Rich and Parched [Politico]
· Inside Oprah's 'Promised Land' Mega-Manse, Pre-Makeover [Curbed LA]