Yes, the gorgeous home of Benjamin Stutz and Cynthia Gulick used over 1M gallons (3 AF!) per year of the City of Portland's municipal water for the 2013 FY (1 July 2012 - 30 June 2013). That amount is 22.4 times that of the average Portland household. The annual bill is $4,078.
Mark Ingman sent me this story, which appeared in Willamette Week last August. It was written by Catalina Gaitan, Emily Schiola, and Aaron Mesh. They identified the 10 biggest Hydro-Hogs (single-family residences) in the Portland area.
Here is the beginning of their article:
Opening our water bill didn’t always hurt this much.
Portland once had one of the lowest water rates for American cities its size.
But no longer. In 2001, the typical annual residential water bill was $150. Now an average bill exceeds $330—and we can expect another 14 percent hike in time for next year’s bill.
The squeeze on our pocketbooks has meant turning off the faucet. The rising costs have led to more conservation, from brown lawns to low-flow devices. The average Portland home has cut its water consumption from 71,808 gallons a year more than a decade ago to 44,880 gallons today.
But some people don’t feel the pain.
In 2001, WW debuted a feature called “Hydro Hogs”—the Portlanders who use more water than anybody else to fill their pools, water their roses and keep their fountains spurting. We named names and asked these big gulpers why they use so much of the city’s water.
After a six-year hiatus, Hydro Hogs is back, in large part because we started to wonder about the city’s aquatic elite. Was the rising price tag of Bull Run water keeping them from fully submerging in luxury?
Turns out we were wrong to worry.
For the city’s biggest water customers, a few thousand extra dollars spent to sprinkle their vineyard, fill their spas and irrigate their terraced Italianate gardens is only a drop in their financial buckets. The Hydro Hogs this year are still using as much water (an average of 779,640 gallons a year) as the honorees of the past.
But here’s what really stunned us: Most hadn’t blinked at the size of their water bills or noticed anything amiss.
When we began running Hydro Hogs all those years ago, it was with the memory of a 1992 water shortage reminding us that natural resources should never be taken for granted.
It’s still true that Bull Run isn’t going to run dry soon (although if we all drained our faucets at the rate of this year’s Hydro Hogs, we would empty the Bull Run reservoir seven times).
The coming year is a crucial time—you might even call it a watershed moment—for the future of Portland’s water supply.
Fresh off a fight over fluoridation, the people of Portland will have to decide whether to let City Hall continue to set utility rates. Activists and business owners argue that the city can no longer afford to let politicians control the city’s water, and they want an independent board elected by voters.
But environmental leaders say that’s a dangerous precedent, allowing corporations to lead a coup of the city’s public utility.
Yet at this moment, many of the biggest residential water users don’t have a clue how much they’re using. That inequality suggests a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots—the people who can’t afford water and the people who can’t get enough.
If we learned one thing from Hydro Hogs 2013, it’s this: You can’t soak the rich.
Even #10 on the list used over 2 AF per year (662,000 gallons).
Like the authors, I was struck by how clueless most of the hogs were:
“I am a very environmentally conscious person—I drive a hybrid car, and think constantly about the careful use of water.” - Betsy Cramer (#6, 770,000 gallons)
She estimated her hot tub holds about 500 gallons, which would only account for about 1,500 gallons. “Doesn’t seem like much in the context of 759,000 gallons.” she wrote. - Betsy Cramer
“You got a mistake,” he says. “I’m trying to figure out how I could possibly use that quantity of water.” - Morris Galen (#5, 790,000 gallons)
Easly contends he makes up for his water use with the carbon offsets from his trees. "I hope more Oregonians grow plants in an urban scene,” he says. “I’ve got spotted owls out here.” - David Easly (#3, 815,000 gallons)
“They tell me if you plant a new tree you have to water it pretty significantly for about three years, and we’ve had a bit of a dry spell.” - Thomas Rosenbaum (#2, 919,000 gallons)
See the entire list here.
Clueless? But I suppose if you're 'only' using 1M gallons instead of 1.5M gallons because you are being judicious about water use, then I guess you are conserving. It's all relative, right?
Generated some discussion in my class this morning.
“Our water use should actually be negligible because we conserve it.” - Benjamin Stutz