Provided by the Suffolk County Water Authority
COURTESY SUFFOLK COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY
A Meadow Lane property in Southampton Village was identified as one of the top 10 water users on the South Fork.
A Gin Lane property in Southampton Village was identified as one of the top 10 water users on the South Fork.
The Suffolk County Water Authority is pleading with South Fork homeowners to reduce the watering of their properties because low pressure in the lines threatens the ability of firefighters to deliver water to their hoses.
Thousands of homeowners would have to voluntarily adjust their watering schedules.
Meanwhile a handful of the region’s top water users draw in hundreds of times more water than the average consumer to run vast sprinkler networks and feed climate control systems that tax county wells to the tune of thousands of gallons a day.
Average water usage by a Suffolk County home, the water authority says, is about 130,000 gallons a year. In the last 12 months, the top residential water user on the South Fork used more than 100 times that much.
Since 2010, The Express News Group, formerly The Press News Group, has kept regular tabs on the biggest consumers of water on the South Fork and tallied their demand for water, which comes from SCWA wells that draw their supplies from deep in Long Island’s aquifer
While everyone pays for the water they use — and those who use exceedingly high amounts pay considerably more per gallon — the rising number of gargantuan water users forces the water authority to make large-scale infrastructure improvements that are mostly spread out among all SCWA customers.
The number of properties that consume more than 2 million gallons of water per year has soared. In 2010 there were just 13 homes that used that much. There are now dozens — and all of the 10 largest users in Southampton Town consumed at least 5 million gallons.
The biggest water hog in the Hamptons over the past year was an estate on Meadow Lane in Southampton Village — a run-of-the-mill, 10-bedroom, 8,500-square-foot oceanfront mansion that is owned by a limited liability company, Ickenham Limited, that appears to be linked to a Manhattan real estate company.
The property, which has been a perennial top water user, sucked in 16,418,076 gallons of water between June 2021 and July 2022, according to data obtained from the Suffolk County Water Authority through a Freedom of Information request.
The water authority has a name for properties that use more than 10 million gallons in a year: “super users.”
The main stress on the water authority’s water supply is the demand for automatic sprinkler systems. But while estates with sprawling, meticulously manicured and intricately landscaped grounds are certainly thirsty, the difference between a few million gallons and the demands of super users is almost always geothermal heating and cooling systems in large mansions.
The water authority recently banned new “open loop” geothermal systems — which dump the water they use into a discharge well rather than reusing it continuously — from connecting to the authority’s mains, but many of these systems remain in use and suck in millions of gallons a year.
The Ickenham property was the only super user among the 10 highest water usage properties in Southampton and East Hampton towns over the past year. In some years there have been as many as six.
The second largest water consumer was another Meadow Lane property, owned by film producer Akiva Goldsman’s wife, Joann, that nearly broke into super user status with just over 9 million gallons of water used.
Loews Hotels CEO and New York Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch’s estate on Ocean Road in Bridgehampton was the third largest draw with more than 7.1 million gallons.
East Hampton, as has been typical over the years, has fewer estates that are huge draws and generally use less water as a whole. The biggest user in East Hampton in the last year — Howard Taubman’s estate on Two Mile Hollow Road — wouldn’t even make the top 10 in Southampton. Just two properties in East Hampton used more than 4 million gallons and two others were just below that amount.
The water authority has wrestled with ways to disincentivize huge usage of water. The company has created a two-tiered rate schedule that charges those who exceed a certain threshold of usage more than 40 percent more per gallon.
“We know property managers are under pressure to make sure the lawn is looking perfect.” SCWA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Joe Pokorny said last week. “But there is a savings if you can keep yourself in the lower tier. We encourage everyone, regardless of property size, to use water-saving devices. There are sprinkler controls that have Wi-Fi and communicate with the weather service so it knows when rain is forecast and it won’t water.”
While it raised rates for the second tier — from $2.289 per centi-cubic-foot of water to $2.398 — the authority also raised the threshold for breaking into that higher tier, trying to ease the impact on smaller property owners.
“Rates are our way of trying to control things,” Pokorny said, “but we don’t want to hurt the average user.”
One fine body…