1984 - Richmond, California:
After 71-year-old Alice Richie's husband died, she began watering her lawn. And she didn't stop. She kept the sprinklers on 24 hours a day, for over a year. Rain or shine. Using over 20,000 gallons of water a day.
Her yard turned into a swamp, breeding mosquitoes. The runoff poured over onto her neighbor's properties, damaging the foundations of their homes and causing algae to grow on driveways. The city had to put up caution signs on the sidewalk in front of her home.
Richie ignored pleas to turn off the water. When asked why she was watering so much, she replied, "It's none of your goddamn business." People speculated that she believed she was washing away evil spirits.
However, she paid all her utility bills on time, so the water company couldn't simply cut her off. Finally, her neighbors took her to court.
Even in court she wouldn't explain why she watered so much. But the court ordered a flow restrictor put on her waterline, limiting her to 500 gallons a day (which still sounds like a lot for a single person). This finally put an end to the non-stop watering, after a year-and-a-half. A utility spokesman said, "She'll have just enough water to do her laundry, dishes and bathe. But she'll have to make some sacrifices if she decides to water her lawn."
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any photos of Richie's front yard, or of Richie herself. Nor, to my knowledge, was her mania for watering ever explained.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - May 17, 1984
The New London Day - June 10, 1984
Category: Eccentrics | 1980s