A 90-year-old water main in Los Angeles burst Tuesday, dumping between 8 and 10 million gallons onto the UCLA campus in less than four hours. The pipe happened to flood the campus the same day that California began imposing a criminal charge and $500 fine for excess water usage. The fine is part of state officials’ efforts to combat California’s three-year-long drought—80 percent of the state is suffering from "extreme drought"—by having residents cut down on their water use for activities like hosing down driveways or washing cars.
It’s hard to visualize 8 to 10 million gallons of water; images like these don't quite do it justice. According to Los Angeles Department of Water spokesperson Albert Rodriguez, the DWP serves an average of a half-billion gallons of water for 679,000 businesses and residences per day. Although the flooding accounted for just 2 percent of the city's daily water supply, that's still a lot of water compared to a person's typical daily activities.
While UCLA students frolic in their pop-up pools, farmers in other parts of California are dealing with dangerously low groundwater levels. The DWP has tried a few other tactics since 2009 to encourage water conservation, including restricting outdoor lawn watering to a few days a week and even offering rebates to people to replace their lawns with eco-friendly landscaping.