Green residential lawns in Beverly Hills, Calif., appear lush and well watered. Credit: Julia B. Chan/Reveal

Move over, Wet Prince of Bel Air. California has a new top residential water guzzler.

Someone in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County used 13.8 million gallons of water during the one-year period ending Sept. 30, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. That’s enough water to supply “more than 110 typical single-family homes or fill 21 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” reporter Morgan Cook wrote.

But as hard as it is to fathom using 13.8 million gallons of water, especially during a drought, it actually reflects a cutback by the user, according to Cook:

Although prolific, the top user in Rancho Santa Fe notched a significant reduction in water use. In a similar survey required for district financial documents, the top residential customer used 31.7 million gallons in the 12 months that ended June 30, 2014. The second and third biggest residential customers used 20.2 million and 12.3 million, respectively.

Rancho Santa Fe is home to ranchettes and hobby farms, including orchards and citrus trees. Six other residential customers in that water district used more than 6 million gallons in a year. The paper identified the mega-guzzler by surveying 23 water retailers in the county.

The San Diego newspaper went looking for the county’s biggest water users after Reveal disclosed last month that someone in Bel Air had used 11.8 million gallons of water at his or her home in a year. We surveyed the largest water agencies in the state, which did not include the Santa Fe Irrigation District, where the 13.8 million-gallon house is.

Like Reveal, The Union-Tribune encountered resistance from water agencies in giving up the data. Twenty of the 23 agencies the paper contacted provided some information, but no names and addresses of customers were included.

There still may be massive residential water users around the state whom the public doesn’t know about because news organizations have not contacted every water district for data. But the Rancho Santa Fe guzzler is now California’s biggest known residential water user.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. She's also been a senior writer for Salon and Fast Company. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Slate and on NPR's "All Things Considered."

Her coverage has won national awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award two years in a row, an Online News Association Award, a Webby Award and a Society of Environmental Journalists Award. Mieszkowski has a bachelor's degree from Yale University. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.