Special Investigation: Top 10 Residential Water Users

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Now more than ever, Basin residents have been feeling the pinch when it comes to water in West Texas. Just last month, new restrictions went into effect after the water district cut back our water supply even more.

But are homeowners really listening to officials when they say we're in a drought?

NewsWest 9 has part two of a special investigation that shows you which Tall City residents are using the most water.

"There are people who are very scared," Steve Thorpe, with the City of Midland, said. "They're concerned about being able to bathe, being able to take a drink."

From taking a drink to flushing the toilet, everyone uses water everyday. But just how much of the city's water is everyone using?

"We saw a name or an address that popped up and we kinda looked and went wow," Thorpe said.

NewsWest 9 submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to get the top 10 residential water users in Midland.

These locations are mainly on the northwest side of town and include streets like Saddle Club Dr., Island Circle and Bedford Drive.

In two instances, some of the top users live on the same street.

The information NewsWest 9 received showed Midland residents whose records are public.

The numbers reflect February meter reads. That's typically a non-irrigation month, but the water use might surprise you.

Take a look at the top user who used 135,000 gallons of water in one month.

During that time of year, the average household uses 10,000 gallons of water or less. That means the number one residential water user used the same amount of water as almost 14 homes.

"They must have a gorgeous lawn or great foilage on their property or a really big leak," Thorpe said.

Thorpe said he's seen numbers far beyond that.

"I've seen some that are 180,000 and 160,000," Thorpe said.

Thorpe says there are a number of reasons for the high usage.

"More than likely it's landscape," he said. "Landscaping here requires water. We've just been inquisitive of the usage that's going on there."

NewsWest 9 went to find out. Nearly all of the top 10 users had homes on large lots and several also had swimming pools.

One resident used 113,000 gallons of water in February.

She said she had no idea she was using that much.

"It's just the two of us so we take showers and we wash clothes and I do rinse the dishes off before I put the in the dishwasher so I might have to quit that," the woman said. "I don't know, we're not doing anything outlandish, we just have a large lot. We're not wasting any water, I mean we're just not wasting anything."

Thorpe said as long as the residents weren't creating nuisance water, it was possible to rack up this kind of bill under the old restrictions.

"Six p.m. to 10 a.m. in essence you could water that whole time," Thorpe said.

Another top user NewsWest 9 spoke with was also shocked when we told her about her usage in February.

"I had no idea that we were using that much," the resident said. "We built this house 30 years ago and little did we know 30 years ago that we were gonna be struggling to keep the trees alive. I'm just trying to keep our trees alive so we don't lose value in our house. I mean that's pretty important."

She said she hopes others would agree about investing in a home.

Now if the numbers don't shock you, their water bills will.

"Two months ago, it was $500 and then this last bill was $300," the first resident said. "It was just about $400."

That was under the old water rates.

"If some of these large water users don't change their habits they could be looking at water bills close to $3,000 a month," Thorpe said.

So are any of the top residential users cutting back? The ones we spoke with also said yes.

"We cut the sprinkler system off, completely off," the first resident said. "We quit watering the grass. It was looking pretty bad before it started raining."

She said they cut off the pool water and she's also making changes inside her home.

"I have a brand new washing machine that uses the least that you can use," she said.

The other homeowner said they're also trying to conserve.

"We're doing a lot of hand watering," the second resident said. "One pond hasn't even been used in ages and we've cut the other one off."

She also said she's hauling in water from an outside source.

Both said they're trying to adjust like everyone.

"It makes me not wanna live here to be honest because I really love gardening," the first resident said. "It just makes it very sad."

Thorpe said he expects the water usage to go down but anything is possible.

"In the plan, the city manager does have the ability to shut someone's water off," Thorpe said. "We may be pleasantly surprised and I hope we are."