In 1991, the public was outraged by the amount of water that wealthy homeowners like Mark McGwire were using. These days, that information is off-limits.
During California’s last crippling drought, baseball slugger Mark McGwire became a poster boy for water wasters.
The burly first baseman figured prominently in a 1991 Oakland Tribune investigation that showed how residents of upscale neighborhoods skirted the conservation demands facing everyday homeowners. The Top 100 users in the East Bay used 15 times more than the typical household.
That included the Oakland A’s star, who pumped 3,752 gallons a day in the summer months at his home in Alamo. “There’s no way I would waste water,” he told the newspaper.
In response to the outcry that followed the story, the East Bay Municipal Utility District demanded that its top users cut water use by 20 percent, the Tribune reported. If customers refused, the district would limit them to about 1,200 gallons a day.
Today, nearly 25 years later, while McGwire’s had to deal with more high-profile denials, California again is in the clutches of a massive drought. And the very information that has the potential to drive smart policymaking is now off-limits to the public and journalists.