*Update from JEA: In some cases in the list of top 10 water customers, JEA corrected the customer’s balance due to a leak or plumbing issue. There also are a few properties that reflect high usage due to reclaimed water usage. Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater. Customers who use reclaimed water for their irrigation help conserve water drawn from the Floridan aquifer, the source of our local drinking water.*
The blue marble we know as Earth has an abundant amount of water, 71% of its surface is covered in the wet stuff. Unfortunately for our very delicate species, 91% of that water is saline, frozen or inaccessible for practical use meaning it’s generally unusable. Scientists are working to change that, but in our political climate, those innovations will not be introduced to the general public for a long time. For now we must rely on our planet’s own water cycle: precipitation, collection, evaporation, condensation.
Earth never wastes a single drop of water, and every drop on Earth now was here 4.6 billion years ago. In a perfect scenario this would leave us with an endless water supply, but Earth can’t do its job when we treat it like sh*t, like filling the air with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide caused by fossil fuel emissions. The water that’s replenished naturally doesn’t necessarily wind up where it came from and certainly not the same amount. The quality of some of this water is also far from ideal. Acid rain: cool band name, uncool precipitation type.
A report by the Center of Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan found total water use in the U.S was 322 billion gallons per day in 2015, 87% of which was freshwater, with the biggest withdrawals coming from two sources: 1) thermoelectric power, which produces most of the electricity in the United States (just look for the giant smokestacks coughing up pollution), a process that requires water to cool down the electricity, then uses more water to cool the water heated from the previous cooling process before releasing it back the environment [insert confused emoji]; and 2) irrigation, which includes water used for agricultural crops as well as landscaping, golf courses, parks, etc. The actual percentage of water consumed in the thermoelectric power plants is only 3%; the rest is returned, at least partially, to the basin from which it was pulled. Irrigation, on the other hand, isn’t as resourceful with half of the water used for agriculture lost to consumptive use, making it the largest loss of water. Of all 50 states, more than 50% of water withdrawals come from just 12—California, Texas, Idaho, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and Florida.
So far, none of the processes humans have invented to “treat ourselves” have had a favorable effect on Earth. Climate change, climate emergency, climate crisis, whatever you want to call it is happening around the globe. Here, we’re going to focus on the U.S. and more specifically Jacksonville.
Across the Western states below average snow cover, record-low precipitation numbers and record-low water levels in the reservoirs are making the multi-year drought even more intense and extensive. While the West is burning down, other states are dealing with record-breaking flood damage. It makes one consider sophisticated ideas similar to those of Spongebob SquarePants’ best friend, Patrick Star, like, “We should take Bikini Bottom and push it somewhere else.” In our case Bikini Bottom would be water, and that’s actually what California has been doing for years. It’s just not enough anymore.
In 1922 an agreement called the The Colorado River Compact was enacted, which, in part, allowed for the construction of Hoover Dam with the distribution of Colorado River split among seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming with California deriving more than 15% of its surface water supplies from the river. The Colorado River sprinkles the lawns, quenches the thirst and fills the pools of 40 million people all the while irrigating cropland that generates 15% of the country’s food.
But it’s not just the Western states having to borrow water. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Mississippi’s lawsuit against Tennessee claiming they were stealing groundwater (freshwater) from the Middle Claiborne Aquifer, which sits below the Mississippi-Tennessee border. Mississippi believed they owned the water, but the court ruled the states must share. The suit was actually the first time the Supreme Court ruled on an issue of groundwater.
California’s The Desert Sun published an opinion piece last month on diverting water from the Mississippi River to the Colorado River to help deter the effects of the drought. Readers weighed in on the matter with some stating the diversion could help reduce flooding of the Mississippi River basin and others writing comments like, “Think outside the drought, Bill” (Bill is the writer of the original op-ed). The California water crisis has become such a big deal The Late Show With Stephen Colbert did a Hollywood version of water hogs, outing Sylvester Stallone for using 12 million gallons of water in one year. Yikes!
About 70% of all rainfall returns to the atmosphere through Earth’s nifty water cycle, and in Florida around 13 inches soak into the sandy soils and porous limestone bedrock that supply the aquifer that keeps water flowing into our springs and works as the main source of water withdrawal for the central and northeast part of the state. As I’m sure you could guess by the very positive tone of what you’ve read here so far, the aquifer hasn’t been able to recover as well as it has in the past. National Geographic published a piece in 2020 detailing the facts of the loss of Florida’s water, including a 2018 study that revealed a 32% reduction in average spring flows between 1950 and 2010 with projections that only got worse.
Not to blame it on social media, but all those “I live where you vacation” posts during blizzards aren’t helping. Those people who took a break from shoveling heaps of snow out of their ass to smash “like” started moving here (or at least bought a second home here), forcing mass amounts of development on unsuitable land. The growing population contributes to the draining of Florida’s wetlands, as well as Florida’s freshwater, depleting our precious aquifer. This may be good news for those without a scuba license since air tanks are no longer needed to swim through the caves of Florida’s springs because they’re dried up. But when the water levels of the aquifer drop, the pressure that keeps the water flowing also drops creating a stagnant breeding ground for mosquitoes and algae and, most problematic, a greater chance of saltwater intrusion, that is, if they don’t completely run dry. Normally, the flow of fresh water of the aquifer keeps the saltwater below at bay, but with lowering levels of the freshwater paired with sea level rise, the results will be undrinkable water and devastating effects on the ecosystem.
We already know Mississippi isn’t going to let us borrow any water, and I don’t want to point fingers at snowbirds or people who want to sweat 90% of their life either. But someone deserves the finger, mostly, the developers causing the destruction and also the residents themselves, which bring us to Northeast Florida’s Biggest Water Hogs.
Before we get to the unveiling, a quick note on how we obtained the information in this list: The water usage and associated addresses were obtained via a public record request to JEA. The owners’ names were obtained through an address search on the property appraiser website. A little Internet sleuthing produced some phone numbers (not all of which were necessarily correct, for the record) and other tidbits about the owners. Observations about the properties were based on site visits, where possible. There may or may not have been a giant corkboard, a ball of string and a thousand push pins involved.
So without further ado, here are the groundbreaking, or should we say “ground-draining” results:
- GREGORY & TAMMY JONES
313 PONTE VEDRA BLVD
Market value: $3,200,000
Lot size: 16,117 sqft
Water usage: 6,078,996 gallons
The Joneses used more than 6 million gallons of water last year at their $3 million beach home in Ponte Vedra. Greg is a very interesting guy; he started a successful business and has opened multiple non-profit organizations that he donates his own money to. So he’s not only a water hog but also an LLC hog. Tammy is as interesting as any very religious person with nine children would be. Assuming the couple is religious, based on their founding of Cornerstone Evangelical Foundation, perhaps they are providing millions of baptisms a year, using up all that water to wash away millions of sins. Or based on their property’s multiple flood prone designations, maybe they are preparing to build an ark, flood the city and change the DNA of human life as we know it. My initial guess was landscaping, since that’s a huge driver in water waste, but Greg and Tammy’s lawn appeared to be fake grass, and the backyard is basically sand given their proximity to the beach. Unfortunately, they did not answer the phone or the door so we may never know the specifics behind the immense amount of water needed to fuel this family.
2. Dasan Realty
7645 GALVESTON AVE
Market value: $81,746
Lot size: 9,919 sqft (Living area: 804 sqft)
Water usage: 4,182,068 gallons
Located in a seemingly low income area, this tiny house littered with playthings, trash and a mini dirt bike is using an unimaginable amount of water. The house shares the lot with a shed, windows covered in cardboard and a trailer. The backyard is a makeshift garden decorated with rolls of blue tarp and PVC pipes. We were met by a group of whispering children and a swift lock of the door. The property is the “primary site” address of Dasan Realty LLC, also assigned to another interesting little house on Freeman Avenue according to the property appraiser site. In fact, a Google search revealed the company has many other “site addresses” but, interestingly, no company website. Daniel Saenz, who filed the Articles of Incorporation for Dasan Realty, LLC, in 2014, was previously a contractor who seemed to be buying and flipping houses. I’m assuming he is the one fronting this huge water bill, judging the book by its cover.
3. Pine Castle, Inc.
9385 RIVER PINE RD
Market value: $431,048
Lot size: 3,076 sqft
Water usage: 3,621,068 gallons
Raising more eyebrows here. Three million gallons of water are being used at this property which is listed as the “primary site address” for Pine Castle, Inc., a non-profit organization serving adults with intellectual and developmental differences, though the actual address of Pine Castle is 15 minutes away and the current owner of the River Pine address shows as Keith L. Brown who doesn’t seem to be associated with Pine Castle. When contacting the residence, I was quickly hung up on. The five-bedroom, three-bathroom house is made from energy-efficient face brick that requires little maintenance surrounded by a meticulous planting of ferns and elephant ears and fallen pine cones from the trees towering above. The rest of the yard is a combination of sand and grass that doesn’t seem to require much water maintenance. Long showers, pumping AC and lots of “number twos” might be the culprit here, but at least all the money saved by their charitable tax exemptions pays for their obnoxious use of water.
4. Pulte Homes Company LLC
10880 Kentworth Way
Market value: $516,737
Lot size: 2,973 sqft
Water usage: 3,225,376 gallons
Miles of short, green grass, tall trees and ornamental flowers make up the retirement community Dell Webb eTown. The HOA headquarters, established at this water hog’s address, has a huge pool and a hot tub shaded by newly planted, fully grown palm trees. Ripping off old people is like taking candy from a baby, but it’s possible the residents willingly pay a hefty wastewater bill just to soak their already raisined skin in the warm, frothing waters of a Jacuzzi. This water hog, as despicable as it is, actually makes sense, since irrigation is an infamous water waster. (Also, the sales history on this building is very interesting. In 2019, it was bought for $100.)
8614 Reedy Branch Dr
Market value: $0?
Lot size: 87,969 sqft
Water usage: 2,822,204 gallons
Our fifth water hog is another type of HOA situation with the property use described as “vacant governmental.” The Trulia description of this property is very amusing: “9 bathrooms and approximately 252 sqft of floor space with a lot size of 2 acres.” Hidden pretty well in the trees of a neighborhood, the building looks to have JEA boxes lining the outer walls and the use description says “utility.” The assumption here is that the neighborhood has its own small powerhouse. Generally any sort of electrical “plant” has to run water through the systems to keep them cool which could account for the almost three millions gallons being used here I guess. And nine bathrooms? I, unfortunately, can’t say if that’s an accurate description, but that would definitely add thousands of gallons of water onto the bill. No matter what’s actually going on here, JEA needs to get their sh*t together. They just handed me this information like it was nothing!
*Update* The Duval County Property Appraiser office lists both Reedy Creek and JEA at 8614 Reedy Branch Drive due to a shared driveway. However, there are two different real estate numbers for JEA and Reedy Branch Plantation. The Reedy Branch Amenity Center has the only water meter for the property. Meter #68955186 shows daily consumption of over 10,000 CCF since January. JEA has a separate electric meter for the lift/pump station on the back of the property taking up approximately 0.1 acre and is addressed in our billing system as 8614 Reedy Branch Dr. Apt LS01. It does not have a water meter.
6. Dolores M Friedline
5552 S Milamar Dr
Market value: $404,079
Lot size: 3,040 sqft
Water usage: 2,813,976 gallons
Dolores M. Friedline, small-time movie star, big-time water hog. Residing behind a gated courtyard and tall trimmed hedges is Friedline, who starred in 1972’s The Brides Who Wore Blood as a pretty blonde who moves to Florida on the advice of a psychic and is later murdered on her wedding night by a vampire. Dolores shared her waterfront home with late husband, Rev. David P. Friedline. Today, the home is heavily protected by security cameras, easily dismissed by the site of the glorious home visually enlarged by the gazebo structure perfectly situated between foliage and crosses. The house is made up of two screened porches, a sun room, three bedrooms and two and half baths and includes a private dock. Looks like that movie psychic turned out to be at least half right: Ms. Friedline is living the dream in Florida. Unfortunately, her obnoxious water use might lead to the destruction of her beautiful Florida home—and being murdered on her wedding night by a vampire.
7. Carl R Spadaro
4439 Heaven Trees Rd
Market value: $3,357,760
Lot size: 9,100 sqft
Water usage: 2,780,316 gallons
Surprisingly, the CEO of a company with its own “ecosophy” (translation: “a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium”) landed on our water hog list. Spadaro is CEO of Earthcore, a manufacturer of eco-friendly products using volcanic stone from Iceland. Based on Spadaro’s water usage, he clearly does not practice ecosophy at home, which he probably didn’t mention when he presented at the Global Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2007. Fast forward to 2022, Spadaro lives in a seven-bedroom house on the water with the obligatory swimming pool and a boat. Given the six cars visible from the front of the gate (and who knows how many more in the three-car garage), water hogging seems like a family affair. Side note: Action News Jax did a very riveting story on Carl’s son in 2015: “Stefan Spadaro’s friend had just caught a small shark while fishing in the St. Johns River Friday evening when they had a spur-of-the-moment idea…shark selfie.” I bet the shark wouldn’t have been so nice if he knew the amount of water his family was hogging.
Easy ways to reduce your total water usage:
Nationwide, landscaping irrigation accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water a day, and is the main reason why most of these people are listed here. But, your lawn doesn’t have to contribute to the total as much as some of these Water Hogs. Prioritizing native plants in your yard over plush green grass and invasive flowering species will quickly reduce the amount of water needed for keeping your yard healthy as native plants rarely need more water than what nature provides. Planting native is said to reduce lawn water usage by up to 60%.
Adding mulch to your gardens is a great way to lock moisture in the soil reducing transpiration of water therefore needing less water added to the system.
And turn your f*cking sprinklers off when it’s raining. Keep your eyes on the weather: If it’s been raining non-stop all day, I think your plants can do without the added irrigation.
Not only is it legal to collect rainwater in Florida, but it’s also incentivised through rebates and tax write offs. Rain barrels require a very small investment upfront and are easy to install. Just stick it under a downspout off your roof gutter system and during a rainstorm, a 500-square-foot roof can fill a 50-gallon rain barrel in about an hour.
Check your toilets. A leaky toilet can waste up to 100 gallons of water a day! Adding a 1-liter plastic bottle weighed down with pebbles to the tank of your toilet is an easy way to reduce over 5 gallons of water a day without harming the function of the porcelain throne. Every flush uses 5-7 gallons, so maybe think about peeing outside?