Article courtesy of Julia Prodis Sulek | September 6, 2014 | San Jose Mercury News | Shared as educational material
LOS GATOS — At least there’s enough water left for skinny-dipping.
The lodge’s residents and guests are not alone in their plight. Water deliveries are the new normal for homeowners in rural Tulare County whose faucets are coughing up dirt and summer-cabin owners near Salinas in Arroyo Seco (translation: “dry creek”; don’t laugh).
Even Oprah Winfrey and her rich neighbors in the exclusive seaside town of Montecito are reportedly paying upwards of $12,000 a month for outside water shipments to keep their expansive lawns green in the face of severe rationing imposed by the local water district.
Others have more dire needs. Of the more than 3,000 community water districts across the state, Lupin Lodge and 14 others — including La Honda south of Pacifica and Lake Berryessa Resort east of Napa — were listed late last month as having barely two months’ worth of water left.
The state licenses community water districts that have their own water supply and at least 25 full-time residents. Most can apply for reimbursements from the state, tapping into the $15 million set aside for the governor’s emergency drought proclamation.
Lupin Lodge so far has spent more than $4,000 trucking in water since June. In a place where gawking and staring are against the written rules, the hauler doesn’t “bat an eye” when he fills up the pool and encounters skinny dippers, Marvin said. “He’s probably gotten used to it.”
The rustic collection of yurts, cabins and trailers are scattered around a central lodge and pool, with tennis and volleyball courts and pingpong tournaments. Highlights of the social calendar include the “Exotica Masked Ball” later this month and the annual “Summer of Love” body-paint, black-light and dancing extravaganza.
But as much as Lupin celebrates all things “au naturel,” the forces of nature can hit pretty hard. Founded by a Utopian entrepreneur in 1935 for guests to experience the freedom of nudity, the resort barely survived the wildfires of 1985, the mudslides of 1986 and the devastating Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 that ripped many of its buildings off their foundations.
Now the resort’s residents and guests are subject to strict water conservation rules. “Don’t be a water buffalo,” says one handwritten sign in front of the lodge. “However, since you are a Sexy Beast (yes, you!) here are some useful water conservation tips …”
Already, Stout and his wife, Lori Kay Stout, have cut Lupin Lodge’s water usage by 40 percent this summer, from 10,000 gallons a day to 6,000. But Cal Fire also requires them to keep in reserve most of the 87,000 gallons of water in their big tank to fight fires. The 38,000 gallons in the skinny-dipping pool is also at the ready.
“I never thought I’d be the owner/operator of a water plant,” said Lori Kay Stout, an artist and mother of two teenage girls. “I’m probably the least likely person to do this job.”
But just last year she supervised the construction of a state-of-the-art sand filtration water system on the property. This summer, as the resort’s wells and Hendry’s Creek began drying up, she helped put into use a couple of hillside springs that only yield about a half-gallon per minute.
Before the drought, “that wasn’t enough to mess with,” she said. “But now it’s a lot.”
She used a low-tech approach this time, however, dragging an old porcelain pedestal sink with gold-toned fixtures up the hill to capture the dripping spring water, then attaching a pipe to connect it with the water system.
The couple is also trying to resurrect a third groundwater well that has been dormant for years.
“We went through the ’70s drought,” Lori Kay Stout said. “We’ll get through this drought. We keep moving forward.”
And on Wednesday nights at 6:30, the bocce ball tournaments will proceed as scheduled, barefoot or not.