Water agencies across the state won’t tell us who’s guzzling the most water, even when some people are using millions of gallons a year in the middle of the historic drought.

The Sacramento Bee says it’s time for that to stop. In an editorial titled “California’s water hogs need a little sunshine,” the newspaper last week called on legislators to end an exemption in the state’s public records law that allows water agencies to shield the names of its biggest residential users.

The editorial came in response to a Reveal investigation showing that at least 365 households in the state used at least 1 million gallons of water in a year. The largest known water guzzler used 11.8 million gallons – enough for 90 families.

As previous Reveal reporting showed, Palo Alto city officials advocated for creating the exemption in 1997 in order to protect the privacy of tech executives. The Bee says the law raises basic questions of fairness:

Privacy is an important right. But there should be no exemption to the Public Records Act because a person might be embarrassed. If attention shames extreme water wasters in curtailing use, the public would benefit. The alternative is that the rest of us get the message that we aren’t in this together, after all.

The city of Sacramento not only refused to release the names of its biggest water users, but it also wouldn’t provide our reporters with basic data unless we paid $557 for programming.

The Bee penned another editorial this week demanding that the city release the data and the names:

State law allows local agencies to disclose water wasters’ names if it’s in the public interest; Sacramento should get with the program. Surely our interest in ensuring that the burden of this statewide emergency isn’t borne just by the lower and middle classes is obvious by now.

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Andy Donohue was the executive editor for projects for Reveal. He edited Reveal’s investigations into the treatment of migrant children in government care, Amazon’s labor practices, rehab work camps and sexual abuse in the janitorial industry. He was on teams that have twice been Pulitzer Prize finalists and won Investigative Reporters and Editors, Edward R. Murrow, Online News Association, Third Coast International Audio Festival, Gerald Loeb, Sidney Hillman Foundation and Emmy awards. He previously helped build and lead Voice of San Diego, served on the IRE board for eight years and is an alumnus of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University.