Portland’s 16 biggest water users keep guzzling—no drought about it.
By EMILY VOLPERT
Many Oregonians are running out of water.
Others show no restraint.
The state is experiencing its worst drought in two decades. Another mild winter left a small snowpack, which has all but disappeared in a scorcher of a summer—thanks to a mass of unusually warm Pacific Ocean water called "the Blob."
Gov. Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency in 23 of 36 counties. This month, state wildlife officials took the unheard-of step of banning fishing in most Oregon rivers—including the Willamette. The parched landscape summons memories of 1992, when drought prompted city officials to issue warnings against watering lawns and washing cars.
Yet Portland's biggest residential water users are guzzling more gallons than ever.
In 2001, WW launched Hydro Hogs, a roundup of the city's most eye-popping water bills and users who racked up the highest costs with sprinklers, hoses and hot tubs.
This year? With heat and drought on everyone's minds, four homes topped the 1 million-gallon mark. The rest of our top 16 hogs weren't far behind. Each household on this list used more water in 12 months than it takes to fill an entire Olympic-sized swimming pool.
To be sure, Portland water gluttony isn't straining the Bull Run Watershed or causing statewide drought. If every one of these hogs used the same amount as an average Portland home—44,880 gallons—their thrift would have little effect on Oregon's water shortage.
Instead, this list matters as a symbol. Such overabundant use of our natural resources stands out as unusually tacky in a year when the state is parched.
In California, where the shortage is even more dire, celebrities who use more than their fair share of water—like Kim Kardashian, Sean Penn and Oprah Winfrey—are being exposed on social media with photos of their lush yards and the hashtag #droughtshaming.
That sense of inequity is part of why we looked beyond Portland's borders into the neighboring community of Dunthorpe—where eight of the area's 16 biggest water users reside.
The citizens of Dunthorpe enjoy an unincorporated suburb south of Portland city limits, but they do use water from Bull Run. The Palatine Hill Water District pays a higher rate for Portland water, reflected in the water bills you'll see on the following pages.
WW compiled this list by asking the Portland Water Bureau and the Palatine Hill Water District for the top residential water users from June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2015. We removed some properties that had reported water leaks to officials. (Former Trail Blazers star Rasheed Wallace, who still owns a house in Dunthorpe, would have finished second on this list, but we reversed the foul call when we learned he had reported a massive leak.)
We tried to understand what could cause someone to make such a splash. It wasn't easy. We made calls, knocked on doors and peered into courtyards hidden by hedges. We even launched a drone to shoot video of private gardens and gated pools.
Here's what we found.
All images by WW Staff and Google Satellite.
Homeowner: Chris and Tyanne Dussin Water used: 683,672 gallons Water bill: $4,297
Chris Dussin is president of the Dussin Group, which owns the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant chain, founded by his parents, Guss and Sally. (Oregon Business magazine in 2010 put the company's annual revenues between $50 million and $75 million.) The Dussin Group also presided over one of the biggest Portland restaurant fiascoes in recent history—Lucier, a South Waterfront spectacular that closed seven months after it opened in May 2008.
Dussin and his wife, Tyanne, tore down an existing Dunthorpe house along Southwest Iron Mountain Boulevard, and in 2009 built a $2.7 million, 6,800-square-foot mansion that resembles a National Park lodge, complete with hydrangea beds and a pool.
Chris Dussin emailed WW to say the family suffered a leak last year. His land manager, Sean Snodgrass, also sent an email: "The Dussins had a major break in their irrigation system which we repaired." Palatine Hill Water District could not find records of a reported leak.
How much water did they use? Enough to boil 273 tons of pasta. HART HORNOR.
Homeowner: Roger A. and Betsy W. DaileyWater used: 691,900 gallonsWater bill: $2,863
Roger Dailey thinks his lawn looks awful.
Dailey, a plastic surgeon at Oregon Health & Science University, says he was surprised to find that he and his wife, Betsy, were among the city's top water users. "We have a lot of trees and foliage," Dailey says of their 2.3-acre property on Southwest Hilltop Lane. "We just try to keep them alive during August and September."
Their $1.8 million, 5,893-square-foot Southwest Hills house, with a sweeping southern view, has a high hedge in the back and woodsy feel in the front, with plenty of rhododendron. "We've planted a lot more foliage than we've taken down," Dailey says, "so we think that's a good thing."
After WW's call, Dailey says, he checked with his gardening crew and discovered the sprinklers had been running too high. "These automatic watering things, you can adjust how much they go so the plants don't die, and somehow it got turned up to 150 percent," he says. "That's been rectified."
Despite that, he says, his lawn is too brown and they lost a couple of trees recently. "By the looks of things, we aren't overwatering the plants," Dailey says. He also says he is otherwise very conscious of their water use. "I take short showers," he says.
How much water did they use? With a low-flow shower head, you could take a continuous shower that lasts 240 days. HART HORNOR.
Homeowner: Larry and Joyce MendelsohnWater used: 724,064 gallonsWater bill: $4,574
Businessman Larry Mendelsohn serves as the CEO of a recently founded company called Great Ajax, which manages home mortgage loans. But he's probably known best for his entanglement with Andrew Wiederhorn, the former wunderkind who went to prison after the feds exposed a pension-theft scandal involving Portland-based Capital Consultants in 2000.
In 2003, Mendelsohn pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return, as did Wiederhorn. Unlike his former partner, Mendelsohn avoided prison time and instead did six months of home detention at his $2.4 million Dunthorpe home.
Mendelsohn and his wife, Joyce, are longtime veterans of our Hydro Hogs list—they were also cited in 2004, 2006 and 2007. In the past, he has blamed a broken pipe. (His exact words: "A leak in the grass.") This time, neither Mendelsohn nor his wife responded to WW's requests to discuss their water use.
Their house's wedge-shaped lot at Southwest Military Road and Riverside Drive covers 1.8 acres, but unlike other hogs, the Mendelsohns seem to lack a pool (at least none shows up in aerial photos).
How much water did they use? If you were somehow a prisoner in your own house, it’s enough drinking water for 3,950 years. ANTHONY MACUK.
Homeowner: Hector and Viviana Marquez Water used:744,260 gallons
The Marquez family lives high in the Northwest Portland hills. How high? Drive up Skyline Boulevard, past the Pittock Mansion, past countless gated communities and winding driveways. Keep driving. When your ears pop from the altitude, youâre halfway through the 9-mile drive from Hector Marquezâs tile showroom in the central eastside.
Marquezâs 11,000-square-foot home isnât visible from its steel electronic gate on Northwest Wind Ridge Drive. It sits on 9.74 acres of towering evergreens and sculpted hedgesâwith a water tower next door. (Itâs not theirs.)
Hector Marquez is president of the flooring-store chain Oregon Tile & Marble. He and his wife, Viviana, own at least six property-management companies in three states.
They finished sixth in WWâs 2007 list of top water users. Back then, they blamed it on the pool. This time, they declined to comment.
How much water did they use? Enough to fill a standard-sized bathtub 31,010 times.
Homeowner: Joshua and Kristine Collins Water used:746,504 gallons Water bill:$4,777
The Collins family moved to Dunthorpe in 2010 after Josh Collins, a former equity fund manager and captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, was named president and later CEO of Milwaukie-based Blount International, the worldâs largest maker of saw chains. Kristine Collins is a former lawyer with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
They paid $2.8 million for a 6,770-square-foot house on 1.6 acres that is tucked away on a winding private lane off Southwest Military Road.
Kristine Collins says the property suffered a water leak last summer, which they fixedâbut it increased their quarterly bill 30 times. âYou can imagine the heart attack I had when it came in,â she says.âIâm just a really average user of water, with one exception.â Shortly before press deadlines, the Palatine Hill Water District confirmed the Collins family reported a leak last November, and paid the full bill. So take their water use with a grain of salt.
How much water did they use? Enough to fill 3,176 water beds. HART HORNOR.
Homeowner: Brian Anderson Water used:765,952 gallons Water bill:$3,087
Brian Andersonâs red brick home in North Portlandâs Overlook neighborhood is up for grabsâ$1.65 million will get you the only water-hogging home east of the Willamette River.
The 4,823 square-foot house on the busy corner of North Willamette Boulevard and Fowler Avenue, perched above Swan Island, has a sweeping view of the West Hills and Forest Park. But itâs the backyard thatâs special.
Andersonâs real-estate agent recently held an open house, allowing for a tour of the private yard. Bubbling fountains and a waterfall feature behind the pool help muffle some of the traffic noise. The propertyânearly one-third of an acreâis lush, and none of the plants looks thirsty even in the July heat.
Anderson is the chief marketing officer of Command Management Services, a logistics company owned by his mother, Monica Anderson. He tells WW he thinks the heavy water use is due to a faulty pool lining. Heâs had to drain and refill the pool twice in the past year. âAnd itâs a good-sized pool,â he says.
He also believes his effort to keep his grass green might be part of the issueâbut he says his water features are innocent. âI have a well-manicured lawn,â he says. âI have fountains, I have waterfalls. But those are all circulatory. I know exactly what it was. It was the pool.â
How much water did he use? Enough to fill nearly 25 semitrailers. EMILY VOLPERT.
Homeowner: Bill and Gail McCormick Water used:816,816 gallons Water bill:$5,207
For more than three decades, Bill McCormick was the boisterous fishmonger at the helm of McCormick & Schmickâs, the Portland-based seafood chain serving surf ânâ turf in 23 states. He served as U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, made unsuccessful bids for the Portland City Council and the Oregon House, and ran the fundraising machine for socially moderate Republicans like former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith.
He sold McCormick & Schmickâs to a Texas casino tycoon in 2011, after the chain went public and sank on the stock market.
His $1.4 million house sits on the west bank of the Willamette River, 2 miles upstream from the Sellwood Bridge. It has cedar-plank siding, a multitiered yard, and mounted carvings featuring Northwest tribal drawings of fish.
Gail McCormick declined to comment to WW, saying she and Bill were ill. No one answered the door.
How much water did they use? Enough to boil 612,612 lobsters. CLAIRE HOLLEY.
Homeowner: Paul Brenneke Water used:863,940 gallons Water bill:$5,376
Paul Brenneke makes no apologies.
âAre you suggesting I should have a brown yard?â the real-estate developer asks. âItâs a 2-acre lot with landscaping. I donât think that makes me a bad guy.â
Brenneke is used to controversy. In 2001, he opened the $23 million Avalon Hotel & Spa in Johns Landing. Within two years, he was battling investors for control of the struggling resort, which is now closed. He returned to an executive role at Guardian Real Estate Services, the property-management company founded by his father, Barry.
(Correction: Due to an editor's error, this article incorrectly stated that Paul Brenneke is an executive at his fatherâs company, Guardian Real Estate Services. In fact, he founded another Portland real-estate company, also named Guardian. The Avalon Hotel & Spa, which Brenneke built, was sold and operates as Riverâs Edge Hotel & Spa.)
Brennekeâs Dunthorpe home on Southwest Summerville Avenue is behind a brick wall. Brenneke says the grass requires care.
âWe water our yard so it looks decent,â he says. âIf you donât water, it will kill it, and then you have to replant it, which uses more water. Youâre vilifying people with big houses.â
How much water did he use? Enough to provide drinking water to 45 elephants for a year. ANTHONY MACUK.
Homeowner: Lewis Scott Water used:899,844 gallons Water bill:$4,515
Lewis Scott, a retired lawyer from the Lane Powell firm, doesnât live in the water-sucking house on Southwest Humphrey Boulevard that puts him on this yearâs listâhe lives in a different home in Dunthorpe. But he owns the Southwest Hills home and the woody 6.9 acres around it, and the water bill goes to him.
Scott also made the Hydro Hogs list in 2001 and 2006. Records show heâs still a consistently high water userâon average, 711,348 gallons a year since 2012.
He owns four houses in a row along Humphrey, but only one is the sinkhole for all that water. The yard and relatively modest houseâ2,760 square feetâsit behind a 6-foot hedge that was once the source of a bitter dispute between Scott and his neighbors, who complained it violated city code. When the city tried to get him to cut it down, according to a 1989 Oregonian story, he went to the Oregon Supreme Court to fight back. He also retaliated by submitting complaints about 316 other West Hills homes with high hedges.
As he has in past reports, Scott declined to talk to WW.
How much water did he use? It would flood the ground floor of the Multnomah County Courthouse with 3 feet of water. EMILY VOLPERT.
Homeowner: Thomas and Barbara Rosenbaum Water used:922,284 gallons Water bill:$4,871
In 2013, when last we checked in with the Rosenbaums, they had just installed terraced gardens behind their $2.6 million, Spanish-style mansion along Northwest Cumberland Road. Their water use had nearly quadrupled as a result. Thomas Rosenbaum, a neurosurgeon at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center, told WW then that the recently planted gardens on the half-acre lot were thirsty and needed lots of irrigation.
This year, Rosenbaum declined to be interviewed, but records show the Rosenbaums have consistently put a heavy demand on the cityâs water. No other home in Portland has used more water in the past three years than the Rosenbaumsââ2.5 million gallons.
What little front lawn the Rosenbaums have encompasses a strip of healthy grass that includes a TriMet stop for the 18 bus. During our visit to the house, a reporter leaned his bicycle against the bus-stop sign. A woman driving a Land Rover exited the driveway, rolled down her window and yelled, âMind taking your bike off our lawn?â
How much water did they use? Enough to cover a half-acre with 5Â½ feet of water. HART HORNOR.
Homeowner: Ralph R. Shaw Water used:926,024 gallons Water bill:$4,593
Ralph Shawâs 6,000-square-foot house looks like a miniature Timberline Lodge. Two blocks from Council Crest Park, on Southwest Brentwood Drive, his $2.4 million property features flower beds, a swimming pool and more than a half-acre of lawn.
Shaw is one of Oregonâs original venture capitalists, investing early in Costco, Integra Telecom and Will Vinton Studios. He was a longtime Schnitzer Steel board member, and in 2001, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber put Shaw on a committee to pump up the state economy and attract tourists.
That same year, Shaw was included in WWâs first list of Hydro Hogs. He finished 12th by using 712,844 gallons. He says he had âno ideaâ his water use had gone up since then. âThere must be a leak somewhere,â he says.
How much water did he use? Enough to fill the Knottâs Berry Farm log flume 38 times. CLAIRE HOLLEY.
Homeowner: Stephen and Jean Roth Water used:969,408 gallons Water bill:$6,162
Stephen Roth deals in big properties.
The Dunthorpe native founded and runs real-estate investment funds in Paris, Tokyo and Chinaâwhere his assets include sprawling Shanghai office parks and Beijing towers that look like the Titanic jutting out of the North Atlantic. That companyâKailong REI Project Investment Consultancy Ltd. Shanghaiâfinished raising $238 million in May.
Roth advises Harvardâs real-estate program and, closer to home, squabbled with business partners for years over unsuccessful efforts to revamp a luxury ranch in Sun Valley, Idaho.
His $2.1 million Dunthorpe home sits behind thick foliage on 1.3 acres along Southwest Terwilliger Boulevard. In the backyard, aerial photos show, a pathway winds from the swimming-pool deck through a large garden.
Roth says the grounds had a buried leak. âIt took a long time to diagnose and fix,â he says. âI donât have anything else to add.â
How much water did they use? Enough to properly hydrate more
than 1.9 million people for a day. EMILY VOLPERT.
Homeowner: Barbara Beale Water used:1,004,564 gallons Water bill:$6,386
Barbara Beale says her 30-year-old sprinkler system is falling apart. âItâs infuriating,â she says, âbut itâs nothing I can do anything about.â
Bealeâs home, worth $2.7 million, sits on 2.6 acres that border Lewis & Clark College. She says she needs the sprinkler system to prevent forest fires. âKids are coming through the property all the time, looking for a quiet place to look into each otherâs eyes,â she says. Sheâs worried one of their cigarettes will set a fire.
Beale is the daughter of Robert Stevens Miller, who headed what became Lewis & Clark Law School, and widow of William Beale, who worked in the timber industry. She has produced several off-Broadway and London theater shows.
She says sheâll occasionally see a wet spot on her property from her balcony, or hear about a leak from a neighbor. But more often, she realizes she has a leak when she reads her water bill. (Palatine Hill Water District says it is aware of multiple leaks on Bealeâs property.) Itâs hard to monitor her sprinklers, she says, because her land is on a steep slope.
âI attempt to be conservative in all things, so I certainly donât waste water,â she says. But she isnât worried about Portlandâs water drying up. âIâve lived long enough to see the cycles of hot and cold repeat on and on,â she says. âWe may be in a bit of warm weather, but itâs not going to kill us all.â
How much water did she use? Enough to fill 64,810 beer kegs. HART HORNOR.
Homeowner: Jordan Schnitzer Water used:1,153,416 gallons Water bill:$5,679
The heir to the Schnitzer real-estate fortune returns to the Hydro Hogs list after a long absence. He made the list four times between 2001 and 2007âincluding a 2 million-gallon drink in 2003. All of those appearances took place when he lived on Southwest Hessler Drive, just below Southwest Fairmount Boulevard. That home, on 1.4 acres, now belongs to his ex-wife.
This year, Schnitzer made the list with his $4.2 million home on Southwest Humphrey Boulevard, 1.4 miles west of where his street connects with Southwest Vista Avenue.
The 11,000-square-foot Georgian Colonial house, sitting on 5.9 acres behind a security gate, has six full and three half bathrooms, a pool and a tennis court. Known as Blueberry Hill, the property is on the National Register of Historic Places and previously belonged to Jordan Schnitzerâs uncle, steel company executive Leonard Schnitzer.
As he has in past Hydro Hog stories, Jordan Schnitzer says his property recently suffered a leak.
âProbably 40 percent of the sprinkler lines in Portland leak,â Schnitzer says. âThere is a huge amount of loss that you donât know about because itâs underground. I havenât gotten the bill yet. Usually what happens is that you get the bill and thereâs a bar graph that shows that itâs really high in a certain month. Whenever I get this bill, Iâll send you the next bill. And the bill after that. And it should be going down.â
Schnitzer varies between complaining about WWâs reporting on his water use and being a good sport about it.
He griped that he wouldnât look so bad if WW checked all of Multnomah County, not just the city. âWW always tries to embarrass me for how much water I use,â he says. âAll of the people in the county who have bigger properties, you donât get their bills. So thatâs always a fascinating situation.â
Yet he also proudly pointed to another enterprise that could have added to his water use. Schnitzer says his 16-year-old daughter asked to put in a âvery big vegetable gardenâ to grow healthy foods to give to the homeless. He says it might be a reason that they used so much water.
âThose are some pretty expensive vegetables,â Schnitzer says. âI told my daughter, âI should just take them all out to dinner.ââ
How much water did he use? You could flush a low-flow toilet 720,885 times. EMILY VOLPERT.
Homeowner: John R. Campbell Water used:1,189,320 gallons Water bill:$7,350
John Campbell was the first pediatric surgeon in Oregon. He trained with former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and arrived in 1967 at the medical school now known as Oregon Health & Science University. He campaigned to add a new building at Doernbecher Childrenâs Hospital at OHSU, and was the first surgeon-in-chief when it opened in 1998.
Campbell retired from OHSU in 2000, telling a university interviewer he would spend time hunting and fishing with his son.
His home on Southwest Military Lane in Dunthorpe is obscured by a tall hedge. Aerial photos show a swimming pool and a grassy lawn stretching across a large portion of the half-acre property.
Campbell did not respond to repeated requests for comment from WW. When a reporter knocked on the door, a woman answered through a nearby window. She said she didnât know anything about the water use. Then she shut and locked the window.
How much water did he use? In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty beams up 300 tons of water to fill the tank for the two humpback whales that Kirk needs to rescue in order to save the future. With Campbellâs water supply, Scotty could save those whalesâplus 29 more. ANTHONY MACUK.
Homeowner: Henry Hillman Jr. Water used: 1,557,336 gallons Water bill:$9,832
Hillman, who makes his Hydro Hogs premiere at the No. 1 spot, may have the most fascinating backstory of any of this yearâs big gulpers.
He owns a robotics company and once owned Avia, a shoe company he later sold to Reebok. The Henry Lea Hillman Jr. Foundation, dedicated to philanthropy in the Portland area, gives annually to scores of local organizations and doled out $513,000 last year. Heâs also a prominent arts patron and a well-established artist himself, a painter better known for his cast glass sculptures.
Hillmanâs money is inherited from a Pittsburgh family of industrialists. His father, Henry Sr., whose fortune Forbes magazine says is worth $2.5 billion, later diversified into real estate and investment banking. Henry Jr. never went for the corporate life, moving to Portland in 1975, and learning how to blow glass before opening his own studio.
Hillmanâs Dunthorpe home is on a secluded driveway off Southwest Military Road. He paid $6.5 million for the 6,700-square-foot house in 2009. The 4.2-acre lot includes a pool, tennis court, English garden and lots and lots of lawn.
Hillman doesnât have any concerns about his water usage, saying you need to consider the acreage of his property, not just the amount of gallons he consumed. âMy using water doesnât impact the drought,â Hillman says. âItâs like eating everything on your plate. It doesnât help the starving children in Africa to not finish what is on your plate.â
How much water did he use? You could run a dishwasher 311,467 times. EMILY VOLPERT.