There is an axiom in the public-relations profession that products and issues—political and nonprofit causes or social-impact initiatives, specifically—do not truly “arrive” until they have a celebrity name attached to them.
Assuming that’s true, a high-profile celebrity this week became the public face of the prolonged, four-year California drought—and not in a positive way whatsoever. Actor Tom Selleck and his wife were sued by the Calleguas Municipal Water District in Ventura County, Calif. The suit alleged that the “Blue Bloods” star and his wife hired a third-party company, which broke Metropolitan Water District rules by filling a truck from a hydrant in one district and transporting it to the Selleck’s 60-acre avocado ranch in another.
A tentative settlement was quickly reached in the suit, which in part sought restitution for more than $21,000 in investigative fees—for the district’s own “Magnum, P.I.,” we guess. Swift resolution is the best kind of damage control.
We’ll leave the sensational aspects of this story to the celebrity press. And it’ll be some time before we can completely blot out the image of the ruggedly handsome Selleck as the poster boy for “boosted” H2O.
But this story harkens larger questions, none with easy answers:
- How prevalent is water theft and are protections enforceable?
- What is the value of that ripped off water?
- Could stolen water become to the 21st Century western United States what, say, cattle rustling was in the late 1800s?
- What amount of precipitation will it take to ease these conditions and will the anticipated El Niño effect—expected to be the largest ever—cure things?
- Can Californians—historically not thrifty with water—remake themselves to conserve?
As FolFry’s scientific adviser Dr. Bart Sokolow has stressed for years predating the drought: “Water—both quality of and access to—will be the most critical environmental issue of this century.” We know that much to be true.