In response to an open records request from environmental activist and writer Paul Robbins, the Austin Water Utility released its top water users for the fiscal year that just ended. He observed “The year 2011 had the hottest, driest weather in Austin’s recorded history. It is so dry that Austin, as well as cities surrounding it, are under mandatory water restrictions. So it is particularly interesting to see which customers used the most water.”
The average Austin residential customer uses about 100,000 gallons a year. The Top 10 consumers used between 13 and 20 times this amount. When you compare top water users to the minimum ‘lifeline’ rate block (24,000 gallons a year), these top users are consuming 55 to 80 times this amount.
Robert W. Girling
|El Greco Cove||78703||1,968||Founder: Girling Health Care|
|Doug Maund*||River Garden Trail||78746||*||Owner/Manager of Maund Auto Group|
|Neal T. Jones*||Stratford Hills Lane||78746||*||Lawyer/Lobbyist|
|Paul Zito||River Garden Trail||78746||1,540||Venture Capitalist|
|Ava and Stephen Late||San Miguel Lane||78746||1,482||Owner of BMW Austin|
|Linda and Michael McCaul||San Miguel Lane||78746||1,401||U.S. Congress Representative|
|Christopher M. Carrier||Agape Lane||78735||1.390||Founder: Aquisition Alternatives, data hardware/maintenance|
|Lance E. Armstrong*||Foothill Terrace||78731||*||Champion Bicycle Racer|
|Molly O'Connor-Kemp||McCall Road||78703||1,334||Art Maven and Oil Producer|
|Shannon Ratliff||Hampton Road||78705||1,328||Founder of Ratliff Law Firm|
Each of these top 10 customers paid at least $13,300 last year for this water, compared to $111 or less for the approximately 10% of residential consumers who are lifeline customers. “These top consumers paid more for water than a lot of people pay for their rent or mortgage,” observed Robbins.
“In an ordinary year, this amount of usage might raise eyebrows. However, Austin had the hottest, driest summer since weather records began for the city in 1856. The drought and falling water levels at Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are not secrets. These top users are generally the people who are best able to afford water conservation equipment.”
While personal responsibility accounts for a great deal in water waste and consumption, Austin Water Utility has at least some responsibility for allowing this waste to occur. In May 2007, the Austin City Council authorized the utility to pursue programs to mandate periodic audits of large residential and commercial irrigation systems to make sure they were working properly. This was predicted to save about 2.1 million gallons a day of peak demand. Now, 4-1/2 years later, these two programs have not even begun. “What’s stopping them?” asked Robbins.
“Austin needs to start these long-delayed programs now. The City Council should also consider a mandatory cap on residential water consumption in times of drought.”
The entire list of top 50 residential, commercial, and multifamily water users, as well as all large industrial/large volume water users, were included in the information request and have been provided as part of this release.
Robbins is the editor of the Austin Environmental Directory, a sourcebook of environmental issues, products, services, and organizations in Central Texas.