The Great Drought of '77 finally hit home here last week when Hugh Hefner, in a burst of public spirit, ordered the Jacuzzi in his Hollywood Hills mansion shut off.
"Hef cares when it comes to matters like this," a press agent for the Playboy magazine founder solemnly explained.
However reassuring that bit of what is becoming known here as "drought chic" may have been, it didn't do much to mend the rift that has opened up between Northern and Southern California since the full effect of the critical water shortage in in this 800-mile-long state.
In the north, where an increasing number of communities are under tight water rationing, there is growing anger at what is being seen as profligate attitudes, toward the state's dwindling water reserves by Southern Californians who are relatively untouched by the drought.
"The problem," one angry letterwriter complained to The San Francisco Chronicle this week, "is not conservation efforts or a shortage of dams in Northern California, the problem is Southern California."
"Around here," said Hap Kaufman, a producer for San Francisco radio station KGO, "the general feeling is that Southern Californians are too busy sitting around their swimming pools to care about the rest of the state's problems."
Kaufman's station runs 17 hours daily of call-in talk shows, and has become something of a barometer of Northern California feeling. The station has been swamped with drought calls, he said.
"Some people are saying this is a good reason to split the state in half," said Kaufman, who lives in Marin County, the area where the drought has caused the most severe water cutbacks. "I can understand their indignation," he said. "Some of the things you hear that are going on down there in the south are just bad taste at a time like this."
Several items that have irked Northern California sensibilities:
A request by a land development company in Mission Viejo, to the south of Los Angeles, to be allowed to continue to fill a scenic lake with more than a billion gallons of fresh, drinkable water.
Acknowledgement by civic officials in Malibu, the Los Angeles County beach community, that residents will be offered, a discount on water rates for using more rather than less water.
News that several fire departments in Southern California were still washing their fire trucks on a daily basis and some fancy Los Angeles restaurants were still serving unrequested glasses of water with meals.
The San Francisco Chronicle, which has been hammering away at Southern California water wasters, sent a reporter to Los Angeles to see for himself. He found streams of water running down the gutters of wealthy neighborhoods as gardeners washed fallen leaves off driveways, and litany of other sins.
The Los Angeles Times replied with an article by its San Francisco bureau noting that golf courses and cemeteries in the north were still watering their lawns.
Officials and some news accounts here in the south have pointed out that the majority of the residents of the state live in the south and that northern communities have been slow in voting funds for water projects similar to ones already in place in the south.
"We're in better shape than the north and there is no reason to feel even a bit guilty about that - or to take any of the northern name-calling," a television commentator here told his audience the other night.
Officials in the southern portion of the state insist they are doing their part to meet a request by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. that all citizens voluntarily reduce water use by 10 per cent. Behind the request is a threat by the governor of a mandatory 25 per cent cut throughout the state if voluntary actions are not effective.
After pointed references by northern legislators to southern waterwasting, the giant Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles agreed this week to stop taking its supply of Northern California water to lessen the drought impact in the north.
But some officials here in the south acknowledge that saving water can present peculiar problems, articularly in wealthy communities that have not felt the effects of the drought.
In Beverly Hills, "drought chic" has become a preoccupation among some residents, with mixed success.
"Gardeners certainly shouldn't be chasing the leaves off the lawns and sidewalks with their hoses on full force," acknowledged Beverly Hills City Manager George Morgan.
"But," he added, "sometimes it's hard to get the message across because the gardeners get their instructions from the maids, and the maids don't always understand the problem."