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Draining Las Vegas: Top residential water users revealed

Top residential water users in southern Nevada 2022 revealed
Posted at 5:55 PM, May 25, 2023

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — When Nevada, California and Arizona agreed on a plan to reduce water use earlier this week, Governor Lombardo said it's never been more important to protect the Colorado River system. Our report on the top commercial water users can be found here.

State lawmakers are also looking at unprecedented measures, including a bill that would allow water agencies to cap the amount of water single family homes could use. If passed, the water district says the law would affect the top 20 percent of residential water customers, including some of these in this 13 Investigation.

Here is the latest data for homeowners across the valley, revealing who's using the most of our precious resource:

Water is life essential. We need it to survive, but managing our water use is becoming more complex.

"I want to do my share in taking care of the water and all that stuff here."

Dawn Marnell has been among the top residential water users in Las Vegas for years. But she's determined to get her home near Buffalo and Sahara off that list.

"Well, in '21 is when I really started thinking about, I better do something here, you know," says Dawn.

Dawn has drastically cut her water use. But others, not so much. And some people are new to the 2022 Top Water Users list.

Water Users graphic 2023

"So we do have an outsized proportion of some residential homes that use a lot more water than the average home," says Bronson Mack with the Las Vegas Valley Water District.

A nearly 16-acre estate in Spanish Trail with ties to the Sultan of Brunei has been the number one residential water user for years. It used 13,109,000 gallons in 2022. That is 97,000 more than the year before. And that's a hundred times more than the average single-family home! For perspective, as many as 160 houses can fit on this sprawling property.

"The average typical household is using about 10,000 gallons a month," says Mack.

The Spanish Oaks place averages more than 35,000 gallons per day!

Others are doing better.

"About half of our highest water users are already proactively taking steps to reduce their water use," says Mack.

That's the case for both the second and third highest water users.

At number two, a TPC Summerlin mansion owned by the late Sheldon Adelson's family consumed 10,320,000 gallons in 2022. That's 671,000 less than the year before.

Station Casinos' Lorenzo Fertitta is number three, he used 8,027,000 gallons last year, a reduction of 1.5 million from 2021.

New to the Water District's Top 10 is Dana White. The Ultimate Fighting Championship president's massive TPC property includes a multi-home compound. It's in sixth place, up from 11th the previous year. White's water use increased by over 1.6 million gallons, using more than 6,284,000 in 2022.

Also in TPC, professional poker player Rick Salomon doubled down on his water use, going from 2,300,000 gallons in 2021 to 4,615,000 last year. Salomon, the ex-husband of Pamela Anderson, is number 10 on the list. The year before, he was number 40.

Over in Henderson, Walmart heir Nancy Walton Laurie is the number one water user with 5,600,000, an increase of 390,000 over what she used in 2021.

Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network can't understand why some homeowners are not only not cutting back but using more.

"As the data show...they're not interested at all. They think that, you know, the rules of Mother Nature don't necessarily need to apply to them, and that there will always be an infinite amount of water. And that's fallacious thinking," says Roerink.

But not all top users think that way. Last year, a spokesperson for Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar told us he was making drastic changes at his 39,000 square foot home. The 33-bedroom, 25-bathroom house sits on more than 11 acres at the Rio Secco Golf Club. Omidyar, who's in second place on Henderson's list, has cut his water use nearly in half.

In 2021, the estate used 9,374,000 gallons. That was down to 5,445,000 In 2022.

Daniel Greenspun of the Greenspun publishing family also cut water use. He's at number three in Henderson, using 5,113,000 in 2022, a savings of 1,872,000 from the year before.

In North Las Vegas, you won't find mega-mansions among the top single family home users. A house west of I-15 near Cheyenne used 2,060,000 gallons of water in 2022, despite having no visible landscaping. North Las Vegas officials say the monthly breakdown indicates a leak that went on for three months before it was fixed. We were unable to reach the homeowner.

All that excessive use aside, overall water use in Southern Nevada is down by about 6.5 billion gallons.

2022 did have a cooler summer and wetter winter but Roerink says education is also at work.

"I think there is a growing sense that using less water equates to a kind of high-minded civic duty and obligation," says Roerink.

Dawn Marnell is a great example. At her custom home in Las Vegas' Section 10 community, she's removed nearly 7,000 square feet of grass, replacing much of it with artificial turf.

"This was all real grass, and it was all flat," says Dawn. "I didn't need all of it, all that grass."

Dawn was number 25 on the Water District's list in 2021. She's down at 64 now after decreasing her use from 2,980,000 to 1,992,000 in 2022.

"If I can conserve on water, that's what I'm going to do," says Dawn.

And she's just getting started. Dawn has plans to remove several thousand square feet of grass over the next few months.

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