The lush front lawns of Los Angeles are in the full bloom of spring, and it’s difficult to believe the Golden State is about to turn brown. But that is the inevitable implication of the drought, and of new rules which call for a 25 per cent cut in urban water use.

The mandatory restrictions are the first in the state’s history, but they look set to deepen long-standing divisions between the wealthy and the less well-off, and between California’s packed cities and its vast, sparsely populated agricultural areas. “It’s a different world,” Governor Jerry Brown said as he unveiled the plan. “We have to act differently.” What he did not say, however, was that some will have to act more differently than others.

In Los Angeles, whose residents use an average of 265 litres per day, an academic study found that the most affluent neighbourhoods used up to three times more water than others. In wealthy southern cities such as Malibu and Newport Beach, where people have large front lawns, consumption was more than 560 litres per capita in January.

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