It’s Free and Easy to Shame Your Water-Wasting Neighbors, But Should You?

California is getting more golden and less green with its record-breaking drought, yet some home and business owners still want to have pretty lawns.

That’s where self-proclaimed “water cops” come in. I bet that you’ve heard of fat shaming and slut shaming. Well, you can thank water cops for pointing the finger — with all the fervor of jaccuse! — at unsuspecting water wasters.

Californias Drought Crisis

Despite the much appreciated light showers that we’re having in Los Angeles as I type this, California’s still seriously dry. As KVOA Tucson News reports, California is officially in the exceptional drought stage.

The largest reservoir that we’ve built in the United States, Lake Mead, is disappearing. Across seven states, water is disappearing for the 40 million people who depend on the reservoir. While Lake Mead’s current state has been making headlines because it’s very much in our face, California’s ground water is slowly making its exit, too.

As reported in KVOA Tucson News, Jay Famiglietti, a NASA water cycle scientist, puts it, “If it doesn’t rain they don’t know what is going to happen.” Back in January, water managers said that the state had 18-24 months of a water supply left; they now fess up that they don’t know.

And it gets worse. As National Geographic explains the drought that is affecting 80 percent of the state is also drying up the state’s monetary resources. In 2014, it’s expected that California will lose $2.2 billion thanks to this drought, especially in the agricultural industry.

Californians will also lose 17,100 jobs. The Central Valley and San Joaquin Valley will both be hit particularly hard. The state will be littered with “pockets of pain and poverty.”

Meanwhile, Nestle’s taking the last sips of California’s water by continuing to bottle water.

The Apps that Make Drought Shaming Possible

Accountability is desperately needed, and it’s going local.

Most of the drought shaming occurs on social media platforms and apps that catch unsuspecting water violators in the act. Here are a couple of apps that are doing a bit of the dirty work to clean up California’s water crisis.

VizSAFE: The free app, VizSAFE, is a virtual neighborhood watch. The VizSAFE crowdsource community initially shared media, like photos and videos, of safety concerns — including criminal acts. In a nutshell: after snapping the safety concern, users report back to their communities with geo-located and time-stamped posts and members nearby will receive those shareable alerts.

The community evolved to also include crimes against the environment, and #DroughtShaming is the latest trend. While some posts are anonymous, a lot of posts are now containing identifying information, e.g. the business’ banner. Homes owners and businesses alike are called out.

H20 Tracker: H20 Tracker is another free app (I guess they’re making it easy to shame) where users can tattle on their neighbors’ bad habits. The app operates under the umbrella of education where users can: 1) learn about their own water waste, 2) know the dos and don’ts of droughts, 3) participate in quizzes, trivia and promotions, 4) compare their waste to others in the neighborhood, 5) get tips on how to save more efficiently, and 6) earn points along the way.

But H20 Tracker takes drought shaming to a new level. Here’s the kicker: instead of sharing with friends, family and community, users can snap their neighbors’ water waste and send the images directly to their city government.


Isnt There a Better Way?

My brain gets drought shaming (especially, when it comes to reporting wasteful businesses), but somewhere in my emotional world I hate the idea — I hate shaming people, in general. I can see it being used and abused in neighbor-to-neighbor tiffs. Instead of signaling out the neighborhood’s rotten apples, why not try to engage them with peace, love and education. We all probably have a seed of an idea that we shouldn’t waste, but many genuinely don’t have an idea about how bad of a water crisis we have.

Aren’t we all entitled to feel safe and at peace in our own homes (and not paranoid that we’ll appear in a Reddit subreddit)?

Yes, California’s in a crisis and the sixth mass extinction is a-comin’, and yes, we have to do something. But, no, we don’t have to lose our humanity in the process.

Do you agree with drought shaming? Is it a necessary evil? Do you even think that itll work? Can you think of better alternatives? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Duncan Odds


Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

California is sending mixed messages. There is a water shortage and yet I read where a homeowner was trying to conserve water by not watering their lawn and they received a $500 fine. What hypocrisy. From what I have seen, is the city is the worst offender. Watering on off hours and half the time they have sprinklers watering the streets and sidewalks. They are a "Do as I say, Not as I do" city.

Denise K.
Denise K3 years ago

Maybe California should put a stop to all the fracking that's going on there.

Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

Why are some people so stupid?? How hard is it to understand there is no water!!!! Use it just when necessary.... No wonder the planet is dying....

Clara Hamill
Clara Hamill3 years ago

Shaming people just annoys people and causes fights. Try talking to them first. The worst offenders can move to Missouri. We always have rain sometimes too much.

Barbara S.
Barbara S.3 years ago

I would drought-shame a neighbor ONLY if there is a water leak they are ignoring and I have left them a friendly note asking them to get repairs made, OR, if they are constantly using water unwisely - such as during the daytime hours, or having their sprinklers run for a great amount of time. Again, a friendly note should always be the first step. If they continue to ignore the present drought restrictions, then I might make a call to the City. There are others, though, who would rather report than get involved.

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara3 years ago

Totally agree with "we don’t have to lose our humanity in the process". Tks for article.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thank you.

Julie W.
Julie W3 years ago

Sorry, it's illegal to use sprinklers - you are allowed to hand water.

Julie W.
Julie W3 years ago

We don't think of it as 'shaming' in Australia, where it is illegal to use water on the garden outside the prescribed hours on the two days a week we are allowed to water. It's called reporting.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago