I-Team: Exposes Las Vegas Valley's biggest water users - 8 News NOW

Las Vegas Valley's Top Water Users Special Report

I-Team: Exposes Las Vegas Valley's biggest water users

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Pierre Omidyar's home in Henderson. Pierre Omidyar's home in Henderson.
Pierre Omidyar Pierre Omidyar
Jim Hale's home. Jim Hale's home.
Danny Greenspun's home. Danny Greenspun's home.
LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegans face mandatory water restrictions if Lake Mead’s drought conditions get worse. The I-Team has discovered some local residents spend as much on watering their landscaping as entire neighborhoods spend.

For the next three days, the I-Team is tracking down those who use the most water in the Las Vegas valley. This first report focuses on the top users in Henderson and North Las Vegas.

A 33-bedroom mansion near Eastern Avenue and Anthem Parkway is Henderson's single largest residential water user. It's owned by Pierre Omidyar. He founded e-Bay and is listed as the world's 162nd wealthiest person. He currently runs the Omidyar Network, a charity organization. Some of Omidyar's donations went to Hawaii's nature conservancy.

His Henderson water bill was $28,000 last year. That money buys 8.3 million gallons of water. To put that in perspective, if you put all the water Omidyar uses in 100 square foot columns, it would stretch as high as 18 Palazzo casinos stacked on top of each other. In a statement, the manager for Omidyar's "Via Tivoli" estate says they've hired a water management consultant this past year and have reduced usage 30 percent since 2008.

Top Water Users Map
View an Interactive Map of The Valley's Top Water Users

Late Las Vegas entertainer Danny Gans' former estate is the second highest residential water user in Henderson. The new owner is Jim Hale, owner of "Mechanix Wear" glove company. His annual water bill is around $25,000. He says efforts are underway to reduce the water usage.

"We just have a lot of grass in a particular area. No grass in the front, it's all synthetic. We've got a tennis court. We've got synthetic golf green. We've got a lot converted to non-water. Nonetheless, we have a lot of plants and grass we just can't let die," Hale said.

Danny and Robin Greenspun’s water bill is around $21,000. Danny Greenspun is chairman of Greenspun Media Group. His publications, including the Las Vegas Sun and the "Sunday," show a strong editorial stance towards water conservation. His estate near Pecos and Warm Springs roads uses 6.2 million gallons of water each year. When the I-Team asked what he was doing to conserve water, he sent an email that said, “No comment.”

“Twice I had leaks at the meter,” said Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins.

He was 2013's highest residential water user in North Las Vegas. Collins' 1-acre property is far different than the Henderson mansions. Collins says his $4,300 annual water bill was because of a series of leaking pipes. The former Southern Nevada Water Authority board member says his pipes are fixed and his bill is now normal. Collins says he's proud of paying his city's highest water bill.

"Right now, things are in good shape, except for one little leaky faucet that hardly leaks at all. So, again, I am really proud to be really supporting North Las Vegas' efforts to recover."

Local water districts have four billing tiers. The more water a consumer uses, the more they will pay for each gallon, but one a consumer reaches the highest billing tier, the fourth level, the charge per gallon doesn’t go up.

"Probably what we ought to do is, as the drought continues, is to look at those tier structures and see if we should add some tiers to make, maybe, the really high water users have to pay even more than they currently do now,” said Henderson City Councilmember Sam Bateman, who is also a representative on the water board.

Would creating additional billing tiers cause the valley's wealthiest residents to change their water use? The I-Team reached out to the Pacific Institute for the answer.

"Frankly for people who are millionaires or billionaires, there may not be a price signal you can send, unfortunately. So there may be other mechanisms of trying to get them to use less water, whether it be providing audits," said Heather Cooley, a Pacific Institute researcher

Las Vegans have been told for years that water conservation is the only way the community can avoid future water rationing, but there are still some homeowners who use more water than entire neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, the I-Team will focus on how some mansion owners are reducing their water usage.
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