We asked the city for a list of the top 20 residential and commercial water users for Spokane's municipal water system, for the year-long period between June 1 of last year and the end of this May. They wouldn't release the residential records (something about privacy, even though other states and municipalities release such records), but here are the top commercial users and what they've been up to with our water. (Let's just say, you may never golf again.)
1. City of Spokane Wastewater Treatment
4401 N. Aubrey L. White Parkway * 268,539,480 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough for everyone in Washington, Oregon and California to flush the average toilet once
WHERE IT'S GOING: The wastewater treatment plant uses city tap water to cool its pipes, bearings, pumps, the seals on its pumps, etc., according to director Dale Arnold. It also uses the water to flush out chemicals like phosphorus from all the crap, fertilizer, dishwater and Axe body wash that you send down the pipes. (Fire hoses are also sometimes needed to keep the Axe-mad girls away.)
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Arnold says that once the plant adds a new layer of treatment (probably around 2014), it'll be able to clean wastewater up to such a degree that it can use the cleaned water itself to clean up the water coming in, thus recycling it and slashing the water bill.
2. Sacred Heart Medical Center
101 W. 8th Ave. * 164,515,120 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to fill 6,260 commode buckets an hour for a year
WHERE IT'S GOING:"We're the largest employer in the city. We have over 2 million square feet of buildings on our campus, so we've got a lot of people who are just doing the routine things that everyone else does," says facilities manager Philip Kercher. "We're probably more hygienic, though, as far as washing our hands." Besides the usual building water use, Sacred Heart also uses it in its air conditioning system, its specialized equipment (sterilizers, etc.) and in its extensive commercial laundry operation -- the scourge of every hospital.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: They've begun cooling much of their equipment with water, rather than air. Also, they've tweaked their boilers such that 90 percent of the steam they use is recycled back in.
3. City of Airway Heights
10800 W. Highway 2 * 125,357,320 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to fill the passenger cabins of 526 747s.
WHERE IT'S GOING: Airway Heights has an agreement with Spokane saying that anytime the former's water supply is getting low (say, it's the middle of lawn-watering season and there's a wildfire blazing), they can tap the latter's. The address is for a meter in an underground vault beneath the intersection of Highway 2 and Hayford Road. The vault is also alleged to contain Al Capone's riches.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Citizens are encouraged to use low-flow toilets and showerheads. If that doesn't work -- and city water supplies really dwindle -- the city can issue mandated watering schedules, dictating water use by whether your home address is odd or even, according to Public Works Director Al Tripp.
4. Gonzaga University
1022 N. Astor St. * 104,390,132 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Seven million kegs' worth!
WHERE IT'S GOING: Ken Sammons, from GU's construction projects department, points to the 2,500 residents on campus and all their showering, clothes-washing water needs. With food preparation in the COG and 3,000-4,000 people using the restrooms, that's a lot of water. Still, Sammons says, "I guess it surprises me a little bit."
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Almost all new facilities have low-flow toilets and restricted showerheads, and the school has gotten rid of its old water-cooled air conditioning units.
5. Spokane Community College
3403 E. Mission Ave. * 96,589,240 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to flood the infield at nearby Avista Stadium with a column of water 12,000 feet high
WHERE IT'S GOING: Facilities director Greg Plummer says he's not too surprised the two community colleges landed on our list. "Both are over 100 acres with over 20 major buildings per campus," he says. "Water is used both by building occupants and, of course, we have quite a bit of irrigated acreage." SCC, he notes, also has two more acres and 444,000 more square feet of building space than its sister school. Still, it's hard to explain why a non-residential school comes in just eight million gallons short of Gonzaga, which has about the same-sized campus, with 60 more buildings and 2,000 students in the dorms.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: "Right now, we are not," says Plummer. He notes they've been looking to hire somebody to lead conservation of resources, but they don't have the money for it. In the meantime, they only water at night and keep close tabs on the amount they use.
6. Spokane Falls Community College
3410 W. Custer Dr. * 86,189,048 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Stand on the nearby T.J. Meenach Bridge and watch the river tumble below you for four minutes and 33 seconds. That's how much water.
WHERE IT'S GOING: See above
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: See above
7. Sans Souci West
3231 W. Boone Ave. * 75,248,800 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to fill eight catheter bags for every person in Florida
WHERE IT'S GOING: Ann Jewell has no idea how her 50-acre, senior-citizen, mobile-home park got on this list -- let alone at No. 7. The on-site prune juice factory? Old guys watering their concrete front lawns? "The bills go straight to Seattle and they haven't said anything to us about an unusual amount [of water]," she says, noting they do have a pool and a clubhouse and "lots of green spaces," and they've had trouble with water pipes in the past. But then what senior citizen hasn't suffered the occasional problem with his water pipe?
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: "We have water-savers on the showerheads that people complain about all the time. We ask people not to over-water or let it run down the street. We ask people to water at night. We have that in our little handbooks that we give out, too."
8. Qualchan Golf Course
303 E. Meadowlane Rd. * 66,198,000 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to flood the entire course with 11 inches of water
WHERE IT'S GOING: It's the grass, stupid. The most water-dependent non-water sport in the history of the world, golf uses enormous amounts of H2O to create a soft, aesthetic, predictable place for balls to roll. Four courses (three public, one private) made the list this year, totaling almost 228 million gallons of combined water usage, which is just 40 million shy of the wastewater treatment plant.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: City Golf Supervisor Pamela McKenzie says she'd like to see a per-acreage check of water use at all city courses to make sure they're using the water "frugally and efficiently." Also, once the wastewater plant steps up to the next level of treatment (see No. 1), it'll be able to supply cleaned-up, recycled water to all city courses.
9. Inland Northwest Dairies
33 E. Francis Ave. * 64,626,452 gallons
EQUIVALENT: It would take a cow 28,000 years to produce an amount of milk equal to the water used here yearly
WHERE IT'S GOING: If you've ever washed out your ice cream bowl after dessert, you know where Inland Northwest Dairies' water goes. Dairy doesn't just rinse off. Purchasing agent Mike Deakins says they push 600,000 pounds of milk each day, plus a lot of ice cream mix, sour cream and Kool-Aid-esque juices he calls "belly washes." Soaping down the machines, he says, is their biggest water cost.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Deakins says the company has updated its water-powered cooling systems and recalibrated its cleaning systems. "We're looking at everything we can do to conserve."
10. Esmeralda Golf Course
3900 E. Rich Ave. * 62,078,016 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to flood the entire course with 13 inches of water
WHERE IT'S GOING: See No. 8
11. Deaconess Medical Center
800 W. 5th Ave. * 60,226,716 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to fill 2,291 commode buckets an hour for a year
WHERE IT'S GOING: Facility director John Finn says most of their water is used directly by patients in the 250-bed hospital. That's showering, teeth-brushing, kidney dialysis, enemas, water balloon fights, you name it.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: The hospital monitors water usage daily, regulating sterilizers and other machinery to use only what's needed. Finn says they've reduced their usage by 15 percent over the last few years.
12. Manito Golf Club
1300 E. 53rd Ave. * 52,469,208 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to flood the entire course with one foot and seven inches of water
WHERE IT'S GOING: Greens, tees, fairways. Also, the clubhouse and maintenance facility. And they use water to clean equipment like golf carts and lawn mowers.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Assistant Superintendent Shane Cox says the grounds crew monitors daily the evapotranspiration rate -- the amount of moisture burned off -- and makes sure they water just enough to replenish the grass. They also hand-water and their irrigation system is computerized, meaning they can control individual sprinklers so they don't over-water in any one place.
13. Prairie Hills Apartments
1718 E. Lincoln Rd. * 50,056,160 gallons
EQUIVALENT: If everyone in Spokane had a 1971 Dodge Demon, they could all have their trunks filled with this amount of water.
WHERE IT'S GOING: Calls to Prairie Hill weren't returned by press time, but at somewhere around 380 units, it's not entirely surprising to see this one on the list.
14. Goodrich Aerospace
11135 W. Westbow Blvd. * 47,557,840 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough for 42,000 dunk tanks for 42,000 PR flaks.
WHERE IT'S GOING: The Goodrich Aerospace plant manufactures disc brakes for aircraft -- including a lot for military contracts. Fined $510,000 by the Department of Ecology in January for water quality, hazardous waste and air quality violations, its officials declined to answer our questions about water usage and conservation. Calls to their North Carolina headquarters weren't returned by press time.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Good question.
15. City of Spokane: Peaceful Valley pump station
2414 W. Clarke Ave. * 47,468,080 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough for 4,300 South Hill residents to shower each day
WHERE IT'S GOING: Wastewater from all across the lower South Hill, Browne's Addition and the West Plains drains to this point in the western part of Peaceful Valley. From here it's pumped across the river and down to the wastewater treatment plant. What's the water being used for? To flush out the stink from millions of gallons of sewage. "There's not a lot of air flow down there [in Peaceful Valley]," says Wastewater Director Dale Arnold. "[It's] a hot spot for a lot of odor complaints."
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Earlier this year the city installed an air scrubber that purifies the atmosphere by pushing air through organic, compost-like material. "We found that machine seems to be far more positive by cleaning the air than it was by trying to water it down," says Arnold. He expects to see huge water savings in the coming year.
16. Hollister Stier Labs
3525 N. Regal St. * 47,438,908 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Five 5cc syringes full of water for everybody on Earth. (Use them wisely.)
WHERE IT'S GOING: Much of Hollister-Stier's business is filling tiny syringes with water for use in hospitals. Getting the water and equipment sterile requires even more water -- purified through reverse osmosis. Keeping it all cool takes even more water.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Safety Officer Joe Holland says the company is working on a five-year plan to reduce water use and find ways to recycle the water they are using.
17. Mount Vernon Terrace Apartments
3102 S. Mt. Vernon St. * 47,109,040 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to fill 71 Olympic-sized swimming pools
WHERE IT'S GOING: Owner Irena Robison doesn't know why her 99-unit apartment complex on the South Hill uses so much water, but she suspects that a neighboring complex is taking some of it. As such, she's hired inspectors from an engineering company to dig around.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: New showerheads, monthly leak checks.
18. Downriver Golf Course
3300 W. Riverview Dr. * 46,763,464 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough to flood the entire course with several inches of water.
WHERE IT'S GOING: See No. 8
19. Cedar Creek Village
8424 N. Nevada St. * 44,992,200 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Equal to every apartment doing eight loads of laundry a day for a year
WHERE IT'S GOING: Resident manager Cindy Dollinger says she has "no clue" where the water is going, other than onto the lawns at the 40-acre apartment complex on the north side. "I don't know why that is," she says. "We don't have any leaks." With 416 units in 32 buildings, Dollinger says the complex holds "probably thousands" at max capacity.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: "Not that I'm aware of," Dollinger says when asked if they're taking any conservation measures. "A lot of people wash their laundry in cold water, which is nice. We water at night, to keep the lawns green. We don't water during the day; it's just not worth it."
20. Spokane Waste to Energy Facility
2900 S. Geiger Blvd. * 44,978,736 gallons
EQUIVALENT: Enough water to fill every Spokane citizen's garbage bin seven times
WHERE IT'S GOING: Your pee turns into usable water once it gets through the wastewater treatment plant. Likewise, your garbage turns into energy once it gets through the waste-to-energy plant and water in the boilers there makes it happen -- producing steam that turns the turbines that make power.
HOW THEY'RE SAVING IT: Plant manager Chuck Conklin says they reuse water throughout the plant. They've also re-landscaped their office area with native, drought-tolerant plants that require less watering.
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