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September 8th, 2004 Dave Fitzpatrick | News Stories
 

HYDRO HOGS IV

Portland still has water wasters, but check out our suburban hosers.

     
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Oregon's got plenty of water, right? Ample amounts of cool, clean liquid fill the Bull Run Reservoir, tucked away safely on the forested flanks of Mount Hood. To the west, the Coast Range supplies Washington County, through the Trask and Tualatin rivers.

Even now, as we sit smugly in the dry days of September, the great gray masses are marshaling offshore, waiting to dump an annual deluge of 37 inches.

While that sounds like a lot of moisture (and certainly feels like it in mid-January), it's actually less than in Seattle, Cleveland, New York City or even Houston. In fact, the National Drought Mitigation Center currently confers "drought watch" status on Western Oregon, reminding us of the irrigation restrictions of 1992, the debate over drinking Willamette River water, and the 2002 Klamath salmon die-off.

The fact is, Portland's steady precipitation isn't keeping pace with the burgeoning population, particularly in the summer when the rain clouds disappear and the sprinklers pop up. With Multnomah County expecting to grow by 100,000 people in the next two decades, Portland is looking to dam up more water in Bull Run and some suburbs are eyeing the Superfund stream that bisects our burg.

The good news: The Rose City's daily consumption of water has been ebbing at a rate of one gallon per capita over the past three years. "I think it has a lot to do with the sustainability ethic in our community," says Portland Water Bureau spokeswoman Tricia Knoll.

The bad news? The spirit of civic conservation hasn't reached the suburbs. This year, for the first time, we decided to expose diabolical drenchers outside of Portland in our annual "Hydro Hogs" survey. When the records arrived (see "Drowning in Data," right), we realized that our standard Top 15 roster wouldn't do.

Had we stuck to our usual format, not one of Portland's largest residential consumers of water would have made the list when stacked up against the top suburban soakers from Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego and especially the Palatine Hill Water District, which serves Riverdale and Dunthorpe. In fact, the top 10 Palatine hydro hogs used an average of more than 1.1 million gallons of Bull Run water per household in the past year. That's over 15 times the amount used by a typical Portlander, who uses just about 6,000 gallons a month. (In case you wondered, a million gallons of water per year in Portland would pencil out to summer water bills of at least $600 a month.)

So, we ended up compiling two lists: one for the top 10 hydro hogs who get their water directly from the City of Portland, and another for the top 15 residential water junkies who have another source for their H20 habit.

Why should you care? Look at it this way: If every one of Portland's 144,900 residential customers tried to use as much water as our friends at Palatine Hill, it would create huge problems for the region. Such consumption city-wide would require 439 million gallons of water a day from a system that can deliver only 300 million gallons.

So is that going to happen? No. Particularly if people realize that someone, besides the water districts, is watching their meters spin.

HYDRO HOGS IV: PORTLAND'S TOP 10

1. William G. Boyd

Southwest Hills

Market value: $4,173,620 Lot size: 2.04 acres

WATER USED: 792,132 gallons Enough to fill 596,428 popcorn buckets.

The grounds to this home--once inhabited by auto-maniac Scott Thomason--are largely shielded by stately firs and maples. Still, from the right vantage, a sapphire blue pool and well-tended, healthy plants can be seen. "I like to believe I'm a fairly socially conscious liberal," says Boyd, a co-founder of Webtrends who now owns Casima Entertainment and says he is studying to be a film producer. Boyd bought the place from John Vonschlegell (the No. 8 Hydro Hog of 2001) two years ago and says he noted six or seven leaks in his irrigation system when he fired it up this summer, though the city reports no leaks.

2. Donald and Kathy Froom

Creston-Kenilworth

Market value: $694,750 Lot size: 1.15 acres

WATER USED: 608,124 gallons Enough to fill the needs of an average kidney-stone sufferer for more than 2,000 years.

Previous rankings: 2001 No. 3; 2002 No. 7; 2003 No. 15.

When WW caught up with Kathy Froom at the family nephrology practice and asked about their water usage, she blurted, "No comment!" and slammed down the phone. A visit to the residence found coast pines, rhododendrons and assorted flowers thriving in the recently dampened loam and a yap-happy bulldog, guarding the garage.

3. Andrew Wiederhorn

Southwest Hills

Market value: $6,218,140Lot size: 2.03 acres

WATER USED: 588,676 gallons Enough for 29,119 two-minute prison showers.

Previous rankings: 2002 No. 12; 2003 No. 4.

Wiederhorn, who amassed a fortune as a financier, is now serving an 18-month sentence at Sheridan Federal Penitentiary. Though he pleaded guilty June 3 to filing a false tax return and paying an illegal gratuity, his $2.5 million salary will continue while he's behind bars. Rumor has it Wiederhorn recently sold his palatial estate, though there's no doubt he owned it during the time the water usage was measured. We assume he can still afford an automated sprinkler or two.

4. George P. O'Leary

Hillside

Market value: $295,710 (not updated) Lot size: Records are unclear, but it appears that this property encompasses at least two standard lots.

WATER USED: 530,332 gallons Enough to wash your Yale cap and gown every day for 85 years.

Previous ranking: 2001 No. 10.

As in 2001, O'Leary, the former chief operating officer for Floating Point Systems, didn't respond to repeated phone calls, nor to a hand-delivered letter. When WW visited the high-tech titan's abode, nobody appeared to be around to enjoy the commanding view, the bubbling waterfall or the immaculate, terraced landscaping with a profusion of rhodies, Japanese maples and boxwoods bursting from the moist mulch.

5. John Pham

Madison South

Market value: $326,360 Lot size: 0.2 acre

WATER USED: 527,340 gallons Enough to brush twice daily for 240 years.

Pham, a dentist, isn't sure why he ran through so much water. His modest home at the foot of Rocky Butte sports a small waterfall, a large pond, a swimming pool and a stand of healthy shrubs. "I water, but not very often," says Pham, who also says he cleaned and refilled his pool this year.

6. Linn Nelson

Forest Park

Market value: $370,980 Lot size: 0.97 acre

WATER USED: 514,624 gallons If this were dog food, it could feed a large Rottweiler for 8,258 years.

Little is known about Nelson, except that he owns a '70s style ranch-rambler painted a garish burgundy, surrounded by a brick wall and an ominous gate forbidding trespass. Nobody was around when WW visited, except a Rottweiler the size of a draught horse and a landscaper who had no clue where Nelson could be found.

7. Glenn Haneberg

Forest Park

Market value: $547,370 Lot size: 1.12 acres

WATER USED: 507,892 gallons If this were diesel, it would be enough to power a Caterpillar motor (like those Belzona occasionally repairs) for over 3 years.

"That surprises me," said Haneberg when WW informed him of his heavy consumption. When he's not enjoying his heavily groomed ornamental trees, cascading water feature, pool with diving board, or 21-station irrigation system, he busies himself with Belzona Solutions, a company that services and repairs pumps and other industrial bric-a-brac. "I'm not trying to keep it plush," he says of the plant life. "I'm just trying to keep it alive."

8. Bruce and Nancy Fransen

Forest Park

Market value: $748,880 Lot size: 1.06 acres

WATER USED: 501,908 gallons Enough to make over 223,000 cases of beer.

Previous ranking: 2003 No. 9

Keeping up with the Hanebergs, who live directly across the street, the Fransens have a small pond, a smaller fountain, a deep green lawn interspersed with brown spots, a neatly stacked rock retaining wall, terraced, with new plants and a drip watering system. The Fransens didn't return our calls, but records show they are regular contributors to Columbia Land Trust, a local conservation group.

9. Steve and Beth Morse

Alameda

Market value: $1,201,730 Lot size: 0.35 acre

WATER USED: 500,412 gallons If this were lumber, it would be 802,744 board feet, enough to build 50 average homes.

Owned by two-by-six tycoon Steve Morse of Milwaukie Lumber, this Alameda charmer is surrounded by a low, light-colored concrete wall topped with a few shrubs; otherwise, it's the least remarkable house WW visited. "Wow!" says Beth Morse when told of her water consumption. "This is embarrassing. I wonder if we have a leak?" A few minutes later, she decided "it must be the sprinklers."

10. Michael Williams

Southwest Hills

Market value: $1,215,290 Lot size: 3.09 acres

WATER USED: 489,940 gallons If this were dirt, it would fill more than 200 dump trucks.

When WW visited Williams--a lawyer best known for handling class-action medical claims--we were greeted by damp beds, pampered roses and a green lawn shaded by large, healthy trees. According to Linda Love--Williams' spouse and a fellow lawyer--the family's computer-controlled sprinkler system is responsible for the high water use, oversoaking the grounds during the wee hours. "I feel terrible about it happening," says Love, who assures us the glitch has been fixed. "It was never intentional."

HYDRO HOGS IV OUTSIDE PORTLAND--THE TOP 15:

1. Leland Larson

Happy Valley (Sunrise Water Authority)

Market value: $ 1,144,857 Lot size: 5.12 acres

WATER USED: 2,135,540 gallons Enough to fill the radiators of 237,282 school buses.

"I hope I haven't got a leak," says Larson, the former owner of Clackamas-based Western Bus Sales, best known for the $20,000 he pledged to the denizens of Dignity Village two years ago in their quest for new digs. Then again, the philanthropist noted, "I've got a pasture full of wildflowers and a pool."

2. Rasheed Wallace

Dunthorpe (Palatine Hill Water District)

Market value: $3,616,990 Lot size: 2.16 acres

WATER USED: 1,688,984 gallons Enough to get 368,505 hydroponic marijuana plants off to a good start.

Neither ex-Blazer forward Rasheed Wallace nor his spouse, Fatima, returned any of WW's phone calls or answered the gate at their suburban home. While Wallace--traded to the World Champion Detroit Pistons in 2003--may not be spending much time in Portland these days, he hasn't neglected his real estate: WW noted a freshly soaked lawn, a four-tiered fountain burbling in the driveway, and a pool out back.

3. Robert Noyes

Dunthorpe (Palatine Hill Water District)

Market value: $1,861,720 Lot size: 4.42 acres

WATER USED: 1,389,784 gallons Enough to make 6,948,920 fifths of whiskey, roughly one bottle for every incarcerated person in America.

"Isn't that interesting?" Noyes remarked, when he learned of his usage. Unlike most people on this list, the semi-retired owner of Rono Graphics actually seemed glad that WW had stopped by. "You've saved me some money," said Noyes, who figures he must be overwatering his ample lawn, mountainous shrubs and leafy trees.

4. Robert Pamplin Sr.

Dunthorpe (Palatine Hill Water District)

Market value: $1,681,667 Lot size: 3.12 acres

WATER USED: 1,267,112 gallons Enough to produce roughly 84.5 tons of paper.

Not to be confused with his Tribune-owning son Bob Pamplin Jr., Bob Sr. made the family fortune as the chairman of lumber giant Georgia Pacific. He goes through clear-liquid assets quicker than his son's newspaper goes through cash, dumping water all over the place, especially on his ruler-straight laurel hedge, enormous rhododendrons, cedars, firs and freshly mown lawn. "We use it around the house and on the garden," said an unidentified woman with a soft, Southern drawl.

5. Julie Dodds

Lake Oswego (City of Lake Oswego Water)

Market value: $712,878 Lot size: 0.58 acres

WATER USED: 1,258,884 gallons Enough to fill a pool such as Dodds' 56 times.

"We had a leak in the sewer system," Julie Dodds, a financial officer who declined to reveal her employer, told WW. Moments later, she also recalled that "we had a leak in the sprinkler system." Lake O officials have no record of a leak, and a midafternoon visit from WW found a pool with slide and a well-watered lawn.

6. Larry Mendelsohn

Dunthorpe (Palatine Hill Water District)

Market value: $2,597,740 Lot size: 1.86 acres

WATER USED: 1,237,940 gallons Enough, were it rain, to fill 22, 508 barrels.

Mendelsohn pleaded guilty to a felony charge of signing a false tax return in November 2003, along with his former partner in Wilshire Capital, Andrew Wiederhorn (see "Portland's Top 10," page 17). Unlike his fellow executive--who's serving 18 months at the Sheridan Federal Penitentiary--Mendelsohn will serve six months of home confinement and 18 months of probation, giving him ample time to implement WW's water-conservation techniques. "We had a leak in the grass," says Mendelsohn, who lives in a home once owned by Blazer Terry Porter. Water-district records don't back up his story.

7. Andrew Bretthauer

Hillsboro (City of Hillsboro Water)

Market value: $612,730 Lot size: 1.33 acres

WATER USED: 1,158,652 gallons If this were motor oil, it would be enough for roughly 4.6 million oil changes.

"We have a lot of acres of lawn and beds," Elizabeth Bretthauer told WW. "My husband is a really big gardener," she said of the owner of Hillsboro-based Bretthauer Oil. "I don't know what else to tell you but that."

8. Tom & Julie Hamlin

Lake Oswego (City of Lake Oswego Water)

Market Value: $994,805 Lot Size: 1.6 acres

WATER USED: 1,069,640 gallons Enough to fill 8,557,120 grande cups of caramel skim no-foam latte.

"We've got a heck of a lot of sprinkler zones," says Tom Hamlin, a member of Raymond James Financial's elite Chairman's Council and a self-described philanthropist. "It's a wake-up call for me, quite frankly." Hamlin vows to replace existing landscaping with more native plants.

9. Roger Pollock

Dunthorpe (City of Lake Oswego Water)

Market Value: $2,855,725 Lot Size: 1.92 acres

WATER USED: 1,055,428 gallons If this were liquor served at a bar, it'd be 135,094,784 shots.

When Roger Pollock isn't wandering the paths around his well-watered property along the Willamette or enjoying his pool, he's running Buena Vista Custom Homes, one of Oregon's most prolific home builders. "We had a leak in our pool," he says. "The water bills went through the roof." The City of Lake Oswego, however, shows no record of a leak.

10. Andrew Honzel

Lake Oswego (City of Lake Oswego Water)

Market Value: $1,037,804 Lot Size: 2.01 acres

WATER USED: 1,054,680 gallons If this were firewood, it would be 1,101.5 cords.

According to Beverly Honzel, she and her husband (retired from the wood-products industry) travel a lot but have a pool and like to keep their grounds green. "We have a big yard, about an acre and a half," Beverly Honzel told WW. "We have lawn, evergreens, Japanese maples, rhododendrons, hydrangeas."

11. Larry Lindland

Happy Valley (Sunrise Water Authority)

Market Value: $560,708 Lot Size: 1.03 acres

WATER USED: 1,025,508 gallons If this were swimming-pool patching compound, it would fill 205,101 buckets.

"We're normally pretty conservative," says Janet Lindland, who says that she and her husband, Larry, an industrial abrasives dealer, have done a great deal of remodeling work this year. According to Mrs. Lindland, they took out a pond, added another, drained the pool, fixed a crack and filled it all back up. Aside from the water-intensive refurbishing, WW noted a landscape drain seeping away beneath the Lindlands' hillside home.

12. Brad Nantz

Lake Oswego (City of Lake Oswego Water)

Market value: $1,650,847 Lot size: 1.2 acres

WATER USED: 1,013,540 gallons In Canada, this is equivalent to 3,836,666 liters of petrol--a lot, eh?

When WW visited Brad Nantz's home, we couldn't tell where the lawn stopped and the adjacent Oswego Lake Country Club fairway began. Kirsten Nantz, his wife, didn't help decipher the dilemma, either. "I have no comment," she said. Her husband is vice president of sales for Standard Insurance.

13. Richard Edelson

Dunthorpe (Palatine Hill Water District)

Market value: $2,107,170 Lot size: 1.07 acres

Water used: 1,002,320 gallons If this amount of water were poured onto a football field, it would reach a depth of 2 feet, 4 inches.

Edelson, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, once cared for the Cleveland Browns, the Cavaliers and the Cleveland Ballet. Nowadays, he devotes his time to his duties as the co-director of knee-and-shoulder/sports medicine at Shriners Children's Hospital. We couldn't get ahold of him, but judging from the looks of his healthy, well-manicured grass, shrubs and trees, he's obviously got a great garden-bedside manner.

14. James R. Jennings

Gresham (City of Gresham Water)

Market value: $245,230 Lot size: 0.33 acre

WATER USED: 989,604 gallons Jennings' water weighs 4,129 tons, about as much as 2,752 passenger cars.

"We're a bit puzzled," said Jennings, a congenial personal-injury lawyer with a firm handshake, who thinks he may have a broken sprinkler, though he also admits the family has a big in-ground pool and a fountain. He joked that WW would be receiving a letter from his lawyer, even though he had a fool for a client. "We really don't know what's going on," he said, in reference to his irrigation system.

15. William Coit

Dunthorpe (Palatine Hill Water District)

Market value: $1,709,905 Size of lot: 3.03 acres

WATER USED: 947,716 gallons Were this wine, it would fill over 4,783,327 bottles.

"Who cares?" asked Dr. William Coit, president of Diagnostic Imaging Northwest, when queried as to the large volume of H2O used at his property, which features a scruffy holly hedge, rangy hydrangeas and looming rhododendrons. "Did I miss the announcement that we were in a water shortage? My philosophy is that it all boils down to the difference between an obnoxious conservative who does whatever they want to, and an obnoxious liberal who tells everyone else what to do." We're pretty sure we know where he thinks WW falls along that spectrum.


Drowning in Data

Expanding our search for hydro hogs proved difficult. Two dozen separate agencies provide tap water in the metro area. We asked many of them to provide a list of their top residential water users during the period July 1, 2003, through June 1, 2004.

One large water district, Clackamas, was unable to comply thanks to antiquated billing software. Milwaukie gave us addresses, but no names. Hillsboro gave us names, but not addresses. Eventually, we put together a list of the top users from Portland, Gresham, Happy Valley, Milwaukie, Beaverton, Tualatin Valley Water District, Hillsboro, Riverdale and Lake Oswego.

We gave a pass to anyone who'd been found to have sprung a leak or ran a water-intensive commercial business from their residence. We then tried to track down the rest to get comments about their water usage--in some cases leaving letters for them at their homes. This year we also included people's lot size, though some may be watering an adjacent parcel that escaped our notice.

Finally, we figured out how those giant amounts of water consumption would translate to more mundane tasks, such as making coffee or taking showers. Our conclusion: There ought to be some very clean--and alert--people out there.

--DF


Conservation Clues

Saving water isn't rocket science; it's earth science, and it's a good idea, even in a state known as the Big Dripper. Here's a few helpful tips to keep the flow low and the bill (near) nil.

IN THE BATHROOM

* Replace the washers in drippy faucets. One drop per second adds up to 2,700 gallons per year. While you're at it, install aerators with flow restrictors and low-flow showerheads. This is personal hygiene, not fire suppression.

* Check the toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. And quit the unnecessary flushing! Put tissues, cat litter and assorted other non-human refuse in the trash can.

IN THE KITCHEN

* Don't use running water to defrost meat. It's unsafe and wasteful.

* Disconnect the garbage disposal and start a compost bin.

* Don't run the dishwasher until it's full.

* Rinse dishes and veggies with a trickle, not a blast.

IN THE GARDEN

* Buy a rain gauge to determine how much water that overnight shower left. Rain, at least for now, is free.

* Two words: "soaker hoses" (or "drip irrigation").

* Water only in the cool of the evening or the morning.

IN THE YARD

* Minimize lawn space: less water and less mowing! Buy native plants. How many sprinklers have you seen in the Huckleberry Wilderness?

* Raise the blade an inch; short grass needs more water. Remember, it's the back yard, not the back nine. --DF


Hydro Children, Chips and Cows

While this year's crop of residential hogs guzzles gallons of water each minute, their use is merely a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the river of water diverted to governments, businesses and farmers.

Take Beaverton School District 48, whose staff, students and grounds swallowed up about 35.8 million gallons in the past year--16.75 times that of our No. 1 user--all in the name of education. During the same time, Wacker Siltronics, Portland's high-tech wafer-maker, washed away over 627 million gallons.

If this sounds like a lot, it is: Wafer manufacture uses a great deal of water. But Wacker has won numerous awards for its steadfast conservation efforts and ability to save water wherever possible.

This is hardly the case for the bib-overall crowd. According to Joe Whitworth, executive director of Oregon Trout, agriculture uses more than 80 percent of all water west of Kansas.

Farmers and ranchers use so much water that it is measured not in gallons but in cubic feet per second. One cfs equals 26,930 gallons per hour, and an average use is 4 cfs, 24 hours a day during the growing season.

In other words, the average agricultural user in Oregon uses 356 million gallons between April 15 and Aug. 31. While this is untreated water, it's water nonetheless. At that rate, they would best this year's No. 1 residential user in a little over three days.

--DF

 
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