Why Tom Selleck deserves his #droughtshaming

Story highlights

  • Jeff Pearlman: Suit says Tom Selleck took water from another district in California, where water use is restricted because of drought
  • Pearlman says too many in state -- especially wealthy, privileged -- lack civic decency, think drought problem belongs to others

Jeff Pearlman is an author who lives in Southern California . He blogs at jeffpearlman.com ; follow him on Twitter.

(CNN)So, I'm about to break some news, and it might shock you.

Take a deep breath.
Here goes. Tom Selleck is not a Hawaii-based private investigator here to solve your toughest cases. Seriously, it's fiction. Dude's never done it.
    Jeff Pearlman
    He's also not a veteran New York City cop. Or a legendary publicist heading a new marketing firm. Or one of three dads raising a little girl. He's not even Monica's sexy boyfriend on "Friends." Hell, the two never dated.
    Nope. Beneath the makeup and away from the red carpets and Hollywood premiers, Thomas William Selleck is apparently just another self-absorbed, 70-year-old rich guy with two California properties, indifferent to the rapidly deteriorating fortunes of a state run dry.
    Or, put another way, he appears to be one of the many people whose selfishness has been exposed by the worst drought in recorded California history, one that is well into its fourth year.
    In case you missed the news, the Calleguas Municipal Water District in Ventura County recently filed a complaint against Selleck and his wife Jillie, accusing the couple of having water taken from a fire hydrant in Thousand Oaks delivered to their ranch (outside the Calleguas service area).
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    On Thursday, Selleck reached a tentative settlement with the water district, though terms have not been not released. But no matter how his lawyers and representatives spin it (it's still unclear whether he purchased enormous quantities of water from the district or simply swiped it), there's no denying the suit's painful accusations: On multiple occasions between 2013 and 2015, it alleged, a van loaded water from a hydrant and delivered it directly to Selleck's property.
    That's water unavailable to those Californians who are not wealthy movie stars
    I wish this shocked me.
    But having now lived in Southern California for nearly a year, I've grown increasingly numb to the mix of wealth, entitlement and indifference on display as citizens are asked to —required to — confront the ravages of the drought.
    It's true that across the state, more and more people seem at long last to be taking the situation seriously. According to new data from the State Resources Control Board, residential users reduced May water use in 2015 by 28.9% from May 2013. (By comparison, last May California actually increased water usage by 1% from the previous three Mays.)
    Yet many of the richest areas (and residents) still don't seem to care. According to a recent Orange County Register report, homeowners in the state's sixth wealthiest county were on track for approximately 900 new swimming pool installations -- the second busiest year since the economic downturn.
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    In my (lovely, placid) adopted hometown of Laguna Niguel, sprinklers blast and flowers bloom and small rivers of runoff roll down the sidewalks. Private community associations continue to waste precious unrecycled water to keep communal grass green and perky, and brown lawns are shunned. Just a few weeks ago, while talking with a retired NBA star who lives in the area, I asked what he's doing about the drought. He looked at me with a grin. "Not my problem," he said.
    Sadly, this seems to be the collective thought pattern. Thanks to the increasingly popular #droughtshaming hashtag, water wasters have been exposed left and right — and it ain't a pretty picture for those with big bucks.
    A $20 million mansion belonging to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West is located on 3½ acres of land, and features two large swimming pools, two spas and enough lush green grass for half the NFL. (A representative for Kardashian was quoted in the New York Post: "Kim takes this drought seriously . . . she has no problem letting her grass go brown.")
    The same wasteful ways seem to apply to Jessica Simpson's estate. And Jennifer Lopez's estate. If you have money, and presumably lack civic decency, the drought isn't your problem. It belongs to others.
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    In this regard, if Selleck is a duke of elitist water wasters, the king must be Brett Barbre, a longtime board member of both the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (the first organization purchases water through the second organization, then delivers it to its 28 client agencies, which provide retail water services).
    A couple of months ago, Barbre (a legitimate power player in state water) was asked in a PBS interview what he thought of mandated restrictions. His reply? "They're gonna have to pry the hose out of my cold, dead fingers," he said. "I have a yard where I have invested money in the landscaping, I've got a dog that likes to run in the yard, I have family that likes to come over and visit. And it's unfair to force me to cut my use 36 percent."
    Barbre added that, "in this country, if you have the money and you want to buy something (like water), you should be able to buy it."
    Indeed. You should.
    If there is any left.