Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann has used just 56 gallons of water per day at his Aiea home over the last two years, Honolulu Board of Water Supply records show. That’s significantly below the average consumption for single-family homes on Oahu, and a fraction of the consumptions posted by his chief rivals in the race to be Hawaii’s next governor.
The records for Hannemann, former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona were provided to Civil Beat last week after a request was filed for the consumption history at their home addresses. The results: Hannemann has used less water in the last two years than either Aiona or Abercrombie used in the last two months.
Civil Beat had originally asked the three leading gubernatorial candidates questions about everything from water consumption to vehicle choice to electricity use to food preferences and recycling practices in an effort to compare what they say about sustainability policies with what they do in their own lives. Some candidates were more forthcoming than others, and we moved forward and requested public records to obtain information they did not provide to us. The water consumption reports were the first to come back.
Fresh water is one of Hawaii’s most valuable resources and has been in particularly short supply as the islands have endured a statewide drought over the last year. The drought has put pressure on landowners to irrigate their crops and yards even as it has highlighted the importance of water conservation — relatively low-hanging fruit as far as environmental efforts are concerned.
Hannemann and his wife, Gail, consumed between 2,000 and 7,000 gallons in each of the last 12 two-month billing periods. Their use bottomed out at an astonishingly low 34 gallons per day between Dec. 29, 2008 and Feb. 25, 2009. To put that in perspective, the U.S. Geological Survey’s water questionnaire says a single bath uses 50 gallons, one load in the dishwasher 20 gallons, a five-minute shower or single load in the washing machine 10 gallons and a single toilet flush three gallons.
The Hannemann household rebounded from its dry period by peaking at 115 gallons per day during the subsequent months. For the remainder of the two years covered by Civil Beat’s request, they hovered in the range of 50 to 60 gallons per day. All told, the Hannemanns used 41,000 gallons over the 729 days covered by the report, an average of 56.2 gallons per day. Their average bimonthly water bill was $125. The last five were for exactly $132.65. The Board of Water Supply has published an explanation of its rates and charges.
Hannemann’s consumption pattern over the past two years leaves him well below average. Statistics gathered from a study initiated by the Board of Water Supply’s Water Resources Division estimated total indoor/outdoor consumption for the average single-family residential home on Oahu during the 2009 calendar year at between 96 and 120 gallons of water used per day, said Kurt Tsue of the water board’s communications office. The Board of Water Supply is an agency that is part of the City and County of Honolulu government that Hannemann directed as mayor for six years.
Do the Hannemanns have a rain catchment system? Do they shower at the gym or bathe in Evian? Or are they just very conscious of their resource consumption? Unfortunately, we don’t know.
Hannemann has rebuffed Civil Beat’s requests to talk about his personal sustainability choices. When we sent his campaign our sustainability questions, Hannemann declined to show us his home or even discuss the issues. The campaign reiterated last week that he would not be participating in this story.
Hannemann’s gubernatorial campaign points to the 21st Century Ahupuaa Initiative launched by the city during his time as mayor. The initiative includes a section on green building and conservation and a 10-year sustainability plan that calls for water conservation benchmarks.
Hannemann’s water use may bring down the Honolulu average, but his conservation efforts are more than outweighed by the consumption of his political rivals.
In an interview at his Nimitz Highway campaign headquarters, Aiona, the Republican hopeful, said his water bill fluctuates, but the most recent one of around $300 was “outrageous.” The $330.87 bill the Aionas were sent on June 30 was the highest of the last two years and corresponded to 43,000 total gallons or 717.7 gallons per day.
Aiona told Civil Beat that his swimming pool requires water, especially during the summer when higher temperatures and drier conditions in Kapolei cause more evaporation. He said one of the seven-member family’s two showers is low-flow, though the toilets have not been upgraded to use less water. The sprinkler and irrigation systems run for between five and 15 minutes three days each week, and Aiona said he is in charge of the lawn and yard work and tries to use plants that don’t require much water.
Over the last two years, the Aionas consumed 403,000 gallons of water, an average of 550.5 gallons per day. Their average water bill was $262.
Bringing up the rear is Abercrombie, Hannemann’s rival in the Democratic primary. Abercrombie’s consumption spiked to 66,000 gallons over the 68-day period that ended July 21. That was by far his highest over the past two years and was equivalent to 971 gallons per day. The Abercrombies’ most recent water bill was for $479.25, and their outstanding balance was $239.63 as of Aug. 4, when the three candidates’ reports were provided to Civil Beat.
When his campaign first responded to our questions, we were told the former congressman’s small yard requires no watering because he and his wife live in rainy Manoa. Press Secretary Laurie Au later clarified in the discussion that the Abercrombies do have a sprinkler system in their backyard and do not buy bottled water. With the exception of the most recent billing period, Abercrombie’s consumption surprisingly has not increased considerably in the months since he resigned from Congress and returned to Hawaii full-time.
Over the 726 days included in the report, the Abercrombies used 471,000 gallons of water, an average of 648.8 gallons per day. Their average water bill was $297.
The addresses Civil Beat used to obtain the water records were obtained from property tax records available to the public. However, the street addresses have been redacted from the water consumption reports by Civil Beat to protect the candidates’ privacy. The Aiona campaign confirmed his street and city; the Abercrombie and Hannemann campaigns did not respond to requests to confirm their candidates’ addresses.
While it is possible that those candidates own the properties to which these water records apply but live elsewhere, it is widely known that Hannemann lives in Aiea and Abercrombie in Manoa. Also, the customer names on the bills provided by the water board matched up with the nameless addresses provided by Civil Beat.
Civil Beat has also filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a list of all vehicles registered to the three candidates’ home addresses to explore their personal use of energy versus their campaign policy on imported oil and electric vehicles. The Honolulu Motor Vehicles, Licensing and Permits Division turned us down, saying it couldn’t search its records by address. The request was also sent to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, which has not responded.
DISCUSSION What does the candidates’ consumption of water tell you about what kind of governor they’d make? Do you have other questions for the candidates? Join the conversation and learn more about the race.