Of course the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It would have to be, what with all the water some folks are using.
The list of Las Vegas' biggest residential water hogs reads like a roster of the city's elite.
Among the top 100 are casino executives, entertainers, professional athletes and billionaire business giants.
And topping them all is an honest-to-God prince -- Prince Jefri Bolkiah, brother to the Sultan of Brunei, to be exact -- whose 16-acre compound in the exclusive Spanish Trail neighborhood used enough water last year to supply 108 average single-family homes.
All alone in second place is Pierre Omidyar, founder of a modest, little Internet startup called eBay. His 33-bedroom mansion on 7 acres at the gateway to Anthem guzzled nearly 13.8 million gallons of water, 5 million more than any other home in Henderson.
Third place belongs to Daniel Greenspun of the Greenspun Media Group, publishers of the Las Vegas Sun. He used 8.8 million gallons of water last year at his 7-acre spread in -- you guessed it -- Green Valley.
In fourth place comes the Las Vegas equivalent of royalty: Frank Fertitta III, chairman and chief executive officer of Station Casinos. His verdant estate on Badlands Golf Course in Summerlin soaked up more than 8.3 million gallons of water, roughly 111 gallons for every square foot of property.
The average valley home uses about 29 gallons of water per square foot.
The average farm in Southern Arizona uses about 46 gallons per square foot to grow high-yield alfalfa.
To get a sense of just how exclusive the list is, consider this: singer Celine Dion, comedian Jerry Lewis, and baseball great Greg Maddux finished just out of the top 100.
Tops among entertainers is Encore headliner Danny Gans. The so-called "man of many voices" used many thousands of gallons of water -- 7.9 million, actually -- to keep his 21/2 acres in MacDonald Ranch looking green in 2008. That was good enough for fifth on the valleywide list and third among Henderson residents.
At No. 47: boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. At No. 96: boxing promoter Don King.
Fred Segal, namesake of the iconic Los Angeles-area boutiques, checks in at No. 44.
The rest of the wet 100 is peppered with opulent addresses and the names of well-known Nevada families. There is a Mack, as in Thomas & Mack Center, and a Cashman, as in Cashman Field. There is a Binion.
Strip club mogul Jack Galardi appears at No. 34. Strip casino mogul Sheldon Adelson shows up at No. 79, with a second address just outside the top 100.
The only individual whose name appears on the top 100 list more than once is William S. Kelly. He owns almost an entire city block on the west side that is served by four separate water meters, two of which made the rankings at Nos. 7 and 94 and a third that wound up at No. 107. (If you're interested, Kelly's property is on the market for $21 million.)
Casino owner Steve Wynn's name doesn't appear on the list, but some of his property apparently does.
In 2007, Wynn reportedly began assembling residential lots in the tree-lined enclave of old Vegas wealth near Alta and Rancho drives, 12 lots in all totaling almost 13 acres.
County records still list the property in the name of a private trust, but Wynn is said to be building a mansion there.
Depending on how much landscaping is involved, not to mention all the bathrooms and swimming pools, the address could move up from its current spot at No. 15.
In 2002, the same property ranked as the third largest residential water user in Las Vegas.
The only Wynn who appears by name on the 2008 list is Kenneth Wynn, Steve's brother, with the 20th spot.
Other past and present casino exec in the top 100: former Mirage executive Barry Shier (sixth); former New Frontier chief Phil Ruffin, now owner of Treasure Island (16th); former Mandalay Bay CEO Clyde T. Turner (55th); William Weidner, recently resigned president of Las Vegas Sands (70th); MGM Mirage executive Richard Strum (78th); and former Aladdin owner Jack Sommer (90th).
Most of the homes are right where you'd expect them to be: clustered in the valley's most exclusive neighborhoods and wealthiest ZIP codes.
The eighth and ninth largest water users, Steven Weiss and Nancy Walton Laurie of Wal-Mart Walton fame, live next door to each other in MacDonald Ranch.
Four Summerlin homes in the top 36 are strung along the same quarter-mile stretch of Enclave Court like emeralds on a necklace, including two places side by side: Barry Shier's sixth-ranked property and Jerry Herbst's 10th ranked property.
Less than a half-mile away, near the southern end of the TPC at Summerlin golf course, five of the top 100 water users lie within a well-struck driver of each other.
But the wettest street in the Las Vegas Valley just might be Kings Gate Court, on Badlands Golf Course. The cul-de-sac two-tenths of a mile long has seven homes, and all are on the list, including the Fertittas' fourth-ranked address and four others in the top 31.
"Obviously, it's not against the law to use too much water," said Doug Bennett, conservation manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. "You get a bill with a pricing message built into it. Some people are more sensitive to that message than others."
Rich people can afford to use more water, so they often do. Research and conventional wisdom back that up.
Take Prince Jefri. In May, the water district raised its rates by about 30 percent for high-volume users like him. He responded by increasing his water use by almost 2.8 million gallons over the previous year. As a result, he ended up paying $61,836 for water in 2008, $16,472 more than he did in 2007.
"Now, if that was my water bill, I'd have a heart attack," said Pat Mulroy, general manager of both the water authority and the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
The list comes as no surprise to Mulroy, who said, "It looks pretty much like it always looks."
For one thing, a lot of the homeowners in the top 100 probably never see their water bill. "They use a landscaper, and the objective of the landscaper is to keep their customer happy," Mulroy said.
That's why so many of the ranked houses are grouped on affluent streets, where people can afford some of the finest yards money can buy.
More telling than that, at least as far as Bennett is concerned, are the other houses on those same streets, the ones that managed to stay off the list. "It shows that people in the same peer group are not beholden to using that much water or having the same style of landscaping," he said. "These are personal choices that everybody makes."
It's worth noting that no one in the top 10 is delinquent on their water bill and only one of the top users, Jerry Herbst, was tagged for wasting water in the past year. Records indicate Herbst paid a $320 fine for an ornamental fountain that violated local drought restrictions.
It also is worth noting that the top 100 list ranks the biggest water users in terms of volume, not efficiency.
Reshuffle the list based on the amount of water used per square foot of property and a different picture emerges, one in which many of the highest-volume users fall into the bottom half of the top 100.
In fact, nine of the valley's largest users -- Steve Wynn, Daniel Greenspun and the Prince of Brunei among them -- actually consume less water per square foot than the average Las Vegas home.
Among the top 100, boxing promoter Don King is the largest per-square-foot user by a wide margin. His townhouse at Las Vegas Country Club ranks 96th in total volume, but for each of its 5,227 square feet the property gulped down an astonishing 385 gallons. Water district spokesman J.C. Davis said that could indicate a major leak of some kind.
When it comes to the sheer volume, though, no one comes close to Prince Jefri -- last year or any other year dating back to when his estate was built in 1997.
His walled compound at 99 Spanish Gate Drive includes a mansion and five smaller homes totaling almost 109,000 square feet. County records list 29 bedrooms, 41 bathrooms, a tennis court and at least four swimming pools.
The property is said to be worth $60 million, and it cost the prince almost $460,000 in property taxes during the past fiscal year.
Residential use accounts for about two-thirds of the valley's total water consumption. About 60 percent of all the water delivered to homes each year ends up in plants, pools and air conditioners.
"In most cases, indoor use is dwarfed by outdoor use," Bennett said. "The big, dominant use of water in this valley is landscaping."
Bennett hopes the top 100 list will prompt smaller water users to take a look in their own backyards, but he worries that some people might use the rankings to justify wasteful behavior. After all, an owner might say, no efficiency improvement at the average house could ever save enough water to really make a difference.
"But that's not true," Bennett said. "Collectively it's the stuff that's been done at hundreds of thousands of homes that has made the difference so far."
Since 2002, the valley has added about 400,000 residents but cut annual water consumption by more than 20 billion gallons, mostly as a result of landscaping restrictions, turf removal, and mandatory watering schedule.
But critics of the community's water practices still see considerable room for improvement, especially where the biggest water users are concerned.
Stacy Tellinghuisen is the energy and water analyst for Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder, Colo.-based environmental group that has criticized Las Vegas' per capita water use in the past.
She said the community has a responsibility to maximize its water efficiency before it spends billions of dollars on a pipeline project to tap groundwater across a 300-mile swath of eastern Nevada.
"If SNWA builds its proposed pipeline, it will dry up significant tracts of agricultural land. And for what purpose, to irrigate lawns in Las Vegas?"
Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said the top 100 list proves the water district's current pricing signal is not having the desired effect.
"This is a list that shows that there are still a lot of people who do things the old way, wasting a lot of water," said Fulkerson, whose advocacy group opposes the authority's pipeline project. "The only way to make these heaviest and most wealthy water wasters conserve is to stop providing cheap water."
Some members of the top 100 have gotten the message.
At least a dozen addresses on the list have attempted some kind of landscape conversion in the past five years or are enrolled in the Southern Nevada Water Authority's turf-rebate program. Even at the Prince of Brunei's place, some grass is being replaced with desert landscaping.
Despite such improvements, however, one fact remains: The top 100 combined to consume enough water last year to supply more than 1,950 average homes.
Water officials hope to reduce that ratio, but there are no guarantees, at least not while water use largely remains a matter of choice and financial wherewithal.
"If you have a (conservation) program that's voluntary, you're always going to have people who choose not to participate," Mulroy said. "I would hope that some of the people on this list would consider a (landscape) conversion. I think it would help a lot."
Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.
The valley's top 100 residential water users were ranked based on their total use in gallons during 2008.
The list was compiled from three separate lists furnished at the request of the Review-Journal by the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the cities of Henderson and North Las Vegas.
Together, those three utilities supply water to more than 460,000 residential customers, essentially any valley homes not hooked up to a groundwater well.
The property information used in this story comes from public records on file with the Clark County assessor's office.