Newspaper article International New York Times

In California, the Grass Is Greener at Coachella ; Water Rationing Order Arrived Too Late to Adjust for Horde of Festivalgoers

Newspaper article International New York Times

In California, the Grass Is Greener at Coachella ; Water Rationing Order Arrived Too Late to Adjust for Horde of Festivalgoers

Article excerpt

Gov. Jerry Brown's water rationing order came too late, say festival organizers, for them to make adjustments for thousands of festivalgoers.

All across California, the big worry is about the dwindling water supply. But at Coachella, the annual music festival here in the desert east of Los Angeles, tens of thousands of well-hydrated fans danced the weekend away on green grass.

With California facing severe drought for the fourth year in a row, Gov. Jerry Brown this month ordered a 25 percent reduction in water use across the state. Yet that order came just as organizers of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival -- one of the United States' biggest and most celebrated music events, drawing up to 100,000 fans a day over two weekends -- were finishing preparations for this year's event.

As a result, the organizers said, there would be few immediate changes to water management.

"The die is cast for the next two weeks," said Paul Tollett, chief executive of Goldenvoice, the concert's promoter. "Right after the shows, there are some hard decisions to be made, and we're ready for them."

The festival, on more than 600 acres of land that is primarily used as polo fields, takes place on the manicured grass that is the hallmark of this oasislike area near Palm Springs. This year's festival features AC/DC, Drake, Jack White and more than 160 other acts.

As the event opened on Friday, its expanses of lawns appeared pristine.

"It's pretty shocking, how much green grass there is," one fan, Richard Hefter, 32, said, adding that he had no trouble filling up his portable water pack.

It was not just the festival grounds that appeared well watered. Throughout Indio and the towns nearby, water fountains and lawn sprinklers flowed freely, and swimming pools glistened in the desert sun. In Palm Springs, daily per capita water use is 201 gallons, more than double the state average. …

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