Water isn’t the only thing leaking in Santa Fe.
As SFR was on its way to the Santa Fe City Clerk’s office to pick up its annual public-information request for the city’s top 10 water users, SFR discovered the four-page document had already made it into the hands of Mayor David Coss, who was caught skimming it quickly to make sure he didn’t top the list.
He most certainly didn’t: Coss used 11,700 gallons between June and August at his Otowi Road home, 24 percent less than the average Santa Fe household. Of Santa Fe’s eight-member City Council, only District 1 Councilor Chris Calvert (9,200 gallons) and District 4 Councilor Matt Ortiz (7,500 gallons) used less water than the mayor.
However, the records do show Coss used 600 gallons more this summer than last, but Coss embarked on a diplomatic mission to China before SFR could ask him about the increase in usage over what was a particularly wet summer.
The council’s newest member, Rosemary Romero of District 2, also received a leaked copy of the water-usage report. Of City Council members, Romero was the second highest water user of the summer (34,000 gallons, just behind District 1 Councilor Patti Bushee’s 39,000 gallons). Romero launched a preemptive strike to justify her usage, explaining she has been terraforming a vacant lot on Baca Street into a lush community garden.
“I knew I would be high because of a choice I made,” Romero tells SFR via e-mail. “[T]hough we have a sign that says ‘Casa Linda Neighborhood Park’ we are not on the $30 million bond master plan, we don’t get consistent water and there are no improvements slated for our park...so [a neighbor] and I schlepped water from my yard to the garden to keep the new plantings alive.”
SFR calculates the average household summer usage by multiplying the daily per-person average of roughly 83 gallons by the average household size of 2.2 people and applying that figure to three 28-day billing periods. This makes the average for summer usage approximately15,338 gallons.
Overall, the gallons used by Santa Fe’s top 10 is lower than in previous years. According to Santa Fe Water Division Hydrologist Claudia Borchert, that’s the result of a combination of elements.
“It has been a wet summer,” Borchert says. “But I think we’re slowly whittling down the high users in part because of this article you guys write. The people who were in the high categories hopefully do something about it, so the next year taps the next highest.”
This year’s top 10 list contains only three repeat offenders. None of the councilors made the list, but the residents who did blamed their usage largely on leaks, as is usually the case each time SFR compiles these lists.
Top 10 Residential Water Accounts
1. Joseph E Illick
Water used for June, July and August: 322,400 gallons
21 times the average household
“I’m sorry that’s a bad mistake—we are not one of the top 10 water users in the city,” Illick told SFR when he was first informed he had topped the list. “First of all, I would have to pay a lot of money if the bills had been that high and, second of all, it’s against what we try to do at our house, which is not waste water or anything else…That’s like to me like being in [the Reporter] as a discovered member of the KKK. It’s not something I want to have in the Reporter or anywhere else.”
After calling the city and a plumber, Illick called back to thank SFR profusely for alerting him to the problem. Illick, who also serves as music director for the Fort Worth Opera, identified himself as “the water squanderer.”
“It turns out there was a leak that has now been fixed,” Illick says. “The water people were just going to charge me on Oct. 20. I guess they’ve been running a tab. Anyway, thanks to your investigative reporting I’ve fixed up my plumbing problem. I just feel relief now that I’m not dripping water into the ground.”
2. Carter McClelland
Water used for June, July and August: 296,600 gallons
19 times the average household
Last year, McClelland topped SFR’s list, using 408,200 gallons or 30 times the average household usage.
The retired banker told SFR at the time: “When I got the message my heart sank and I’m very embarrassed.” McClelland blamed the wastage on a running toilet and an irrigation system that wasn’t properly calibrated.
The good news is, this summer McClelland cut his water usage by more than a 100,000 gallons from last year, The bad news is he’s still No. 2 two on the list.
“I’m glad we’ve shown some improvement, and we’ll redouble our efforts not to be on your list next year,” McClelland, who is now chairman of Union Square Advisors, tells SFR via e-mail.
3. Peter and Joanna Townsend
Water used for June, July and August: 293,500 gallons
19 times the average household
SFR could not reach the Townsends, but research on the Internet indicates the couple are philanthropists living in Texas who are very involved in issues relating to autism.
4. Colores Del Sol Homeowners Association
Primo Colores Street
Water used for June, July and August: 286,600 gallons
19 times the average household
Colores Del Sol is a Centex Homes community and the board members of the community’s homeowners association are also Centex employees. Houses start at $205,000 in the community, which also includes a 22-acre park.
Association members did not return SFR’s calls, but the Centex Web site describes a multi-faceted water conservation system, including front-yard automatic drip sprinklers and low-consumption toilets.
5. Anthony Abbate
Water used for June, July and August: 253,800 gallons
17 times the average household
In 2006, Abbate was the city’s fourth top water user, consuming 208,400 gallons. When contacted by SFR, he hung up the phone.
Two summers later, Abbate, who is president of Santa Fe’s Southwest Acupuncture College, has dropped a spot, though he actually increased his usage by 25 percent. This year, SFR got a “no comment” before Abbate hung up.
6. Charles Kokesh
Water used for June, July and August: 250,400 gallons
16 times the average household
SFR could not reach Kokesh, the founder of Santa Fe-based Technology Funding.
Kokesh was our 10th top water user in 2007, using 155,0991 gallons. He told SFR he believed it was a billing error, adding, “I’ll have our accountant go back and take a look at it.”
This time it won’t be so easy to blame on his CPA; Kokesh’s usage increased by nearly 100,000 gallons since last summer.
7. Dwain and Glenda Newman
Water used for June, July and August: 215,800 gallons
14 times the average household
Water wastage may not be a laughing matter, but native Arkansan Dwaine Newman takes his rank on the list with good humor.
“Well, we had two water breaks,” the National Home Centers CEO tells SFR with a chuckle. “It’s an extra home we have, so one of our kids went out there and discovered all the water was running down into the street and into—what do y’all call it, arroya? Arroyo. And then we thought we had it fixed and then it did it again. So, yeah, we’ve had a rough year…but we think we’ve got that all solved now.”
Newman adds that his family is maintaining a few young aspen trees, which require water, but the main problem is, since they only occupy the home approximately three months a year, they can’t always catch leaks.
“We hated it for the very reasons that you would be concerned,” Newman says. “We know water is valuable. It’s valuable anywhere, but it’s really valuable there. It’s been a good year, though, hasn’t it? We live in Fayetteville, straight across from Santa Fe, only in Arkansas, and we’ve had the wettest year that I know of.”
8. Jeffrey Wiggins
Water used for June, July and August: 188,800 gallons
12 times the average household
SFR was not able to track down the owner of the home on Palace Avenue. However, Sotheby’s International Realty does list the four-bedroom home on its Web site as on the market, with a $2.3 million price tag.
“It does have extensive gardens, but it also has a big catchment system with 8,000 gallons of water storage,” Sotheby’s Managing Broker Greg McMillan, who is listed as a contact for the property, says. “I’m surprised it’s up that high. It’s got a really good catchment system.”
9. Judith Bankier
Water used for June, July and August: 187,200 gallons
12 times the average household
SFR was unable to track down any details on Bankier, however, campaign finance reports show a contributor named William Dumont used the same address as Bankier’s to donate several thousand dollars to both Bill Richardson and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.
10. Steve Lasher
Water used for June, July and August: 163,900 gallons
11 times the average household
Lasher, a managing director with the investment banking company GulfStar Group, describes a summer leak at his weekend home in Santa Fe as “depressing,” at least as much for the hassle as for the cost.
“We had a horrible leak,” he says. “They spent two months looking for it through the irrigation system and everything. They ran a nitrogen test. I mean it was all kinds of crud they were trying to find. But, they found a horrible leak, so hopefully it’s resolved now. Actually as of a couple months ago it should’ve been resolved.”