In California, the Grass Is Greener at Coachella

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Coachella Fans Revel in the Music

INDIO, Calif. — All across the state, 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 are dancing 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 country’s 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.

To meet the governor’s order, the State Water Resources Control Board has issued preliminary guidelines for local water agencies, asking some — including the Coachella Valley Water District, which includes the festival grounds — for cuts of up to 35 percent.

Alexander Haagen III, a real estate developer who owns the Empire Polo Club, one of the properties on which the Coachella festival takes place, said in an interview that the grounds received almost all of their water from the Colorado River and not from underground aquifers, which he said were the primary focus of the governor’s order.

“Right now, we are not really having a problem,” Mr. Haagen said.

For concertgoers, water seemed a minimal concern. Serena Jade, an 18-year-old from Los Angeles who was wandering with two friends under the burning late-afternoon sun, said that she had not considered the possibility that there would not be ample water at Coachella this year. The only question was “just how expensive” that water would be, she said.

At the festival, water bottles sell for $2 — the same price since the event started in 1999 — and refills are free to people who take their own containers and water packs.

This year, the Coachella festival introduced three permanent bathroom structures, with some 324 stalls and urinals, to supplement its rows of portable toilets. The urinals function without water.

Both Mr. Tollett and Mr. Haagen said that after the festivals were over — in addition to Coachella, Goldenvoice puts on a country-music event, Stagecoach, on the same spot at the end of April — they would limit the watering of the grounds, letting some of the grass go brown. Mr. Tollett said that some reduction had already happened.

“We’ll make changes,” Mr. Tollett said, “and at the same time pray for rain.”

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