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Hearst Castle under water restrictions as severe drought continues to hit the Central Coast

Tom Wilmer
The Neptune pool is one of Hearst Castle's iconic features.

One of the most famous attractions at Hearst Castle in San Simeon is the marble-framed outdoor Neptune pool. While severe drought is causing California State Parks to implement water restrictions at the castle, they say the iconic pool will remain full, even as most irrigation stops and portable toilets replace bathrooms.

California State Parks, which operates and preserves the Hearst estate, turned off much of the water there earlier this month amid the statewide drought.

Thomas Wilmer
A view of Hearst Castle's "Casa Grande."

“We operate our own water system. We're not on a city system or anything like that," said State Park Superintendent for San Luis Obispo Coast District, Dan Falat.

Falat said being on an internal water system allows the estate to implement cutbacks like this, which are called Phase 3 water restrictions.

“The whole state is impacted right now in many areas and in different varying levels, but obviously water conservation is critical, and so we're doing that as part of this last stage," he said.

Falat said there’s a reason the Neptune pool and the indoor Roman pool, as well as many of the fountains, aren’t going dry at the estate. He said the main issue is conserving them as historical relics.

“They are part of the estate and the collection. If you drain a pool, that can have unintended consequences as things dry out, things crack, leaks form and other things," Falat said.

The pools can serve as fire breaks and emergency water sources in case of a fire, according to Falat.

State Parks has brought in portable chemical toilets, drip irrigation and other water precautions at the estate and visitor’s center to prepare for historic droughts like this one. The castle is now once again open for tours, which Falat said will be unaffected by the drought measures.

“The gardens still look beautiful,” he said.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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