Top 10 Residential Water Users FY2011

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.

Texas open records laws allow customers to request utilities redact address and consumption information. *Maund, Jones, and Armstrong did so, but their legal addresses are listed with Travis County voter registration and the Travis County Appraisal District. Their consumption obviously falls within the range of the customers above and below them. Occupation based on Internet search. The City’s fiscal year is Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
Name Address Zip 1,000 Gallons Occupation
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. 

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