The lawn is sumptuous, the landscaping so lush it seems to whisper "rich" in an English accent.
Inside the white-brick house, the master bathroom contains both a Jacuzzi and a glass-brick enclosed shower -- one of the four bathrooms in the five-bedroom house served by a monster 82-gallon water heater.
The house, in Spotsylvania County's Fawn Lake development, is just one of those super-size homes that are the hottest sellers in the outer-outer suburbs. They offer a level of luxury and breathing room that would be unaffordable closer to the city.
They are also water hogs, putting pressure on water supplies stressed by fast growth and parched by the region's year-long drought. Planners are expecting more and more of the jumbo houses to be built in the county over the next decade.
"It is safe to assume a brand-new house with lots of square feet and lots of opportunity for landscaping and irrigation will demand more water," said Thomas Slaydon, Spotsylvania's water director.
More water is exactly what Spotsylvania does not have right now. The regional drought has led to mandatory water restrictions in Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg, which share a water system. The reservoirs are low, as is the Rappahannock River, which also serves the system. An 8-million-gallon-a-day reservoir is at least a year away.
Last week, more than 90 Virginia localities, including Spotsylvania, were deemed eligible for federal disaster aid because of the drought. Despite the recent rains, Spotsylvania is still 14.2 inches below normal rainfall for the past year. But October is shaping up to have average or above average rainfall, said Melody Paschetag, hydrologist with the National Weather Service.
"We're not out of the drought, but moving into fall will help," Paschetag said.
Questions over water supplies will likely come up again. The county has been growing at a blistering rate in the past few years, helped by its location between Washington and Richmond. The number of housing units in the county has increased by 81 percent over the past dozen years.
While county leaders hope to reduce the growth rate, county planners say these bigger, more expensive houses with thirsty yards are exactly the ones that developers are looking to build.
John W. Taylor, the county's long-range planner, said developers now coming to the table want to build houses in the $295,000-to-$305,000 range. This year, the average sales price of a home has been $196,840, Taylor said.
"Four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths is becoming the standard for new homes," said Judy Jones, managing broker for Avery-Hess Realtors in Stafford County, just outside Fredericksburg. "It's getting rare to see a three-bedroom house."
Spotsylvania is only the latest big-house battleground. Other areas, such as Loudoun and Prince William counties, have struggled to balance growth with available resources.
Slaydon said the thirstiest part of this new type of development is not necessarily what is inside the house -- the Jacuzzis and other high-end plumbing -- but all the pretty flowers and the green necklace of shrubs and plantings outside. "It doesn't matter how many bathrooms you have, a person can only use one at a time," Slaydon said.
But landscaping, that is another thing.
Slaydon said much of the reduction in water use achieved since mandatory restrictions went into effect in Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg came from the ban on lawn watering and other outdoor uses. Over the summer, the average daily demand dropped from nearly 12 million gallons a day to just over 8 million, he said, greatly improving the water supply outlook.
Slaydon said one long-term approach to drought cycles could be using fewer water-intensive plants when designing landscaping. Embraced most closely in dry western states, the concept called xeriscaping matches plantings with climate and the landscape design uses slopes and drainage to maximize water efficiency.
Inside the newer, larger houses, bathrooms and kitchens may be outfitted with low-flow shower heads and parsimonious toilets, but they are also crammed with every type of luxury and convenience.
If these homeowners use more water, it has less to do with engineering than the affluent lifestyles of the owners, said a national expert on residential housing.
"People are not really into conserving," said Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders. "On the surface you say, 'Yes I do,' but the features you want and the actions in the home say otherwise."
"You might have a 1.5-gallon toilet, but you flush it three times," he said. "The clothes washer and dishwasher are run half-full -- people go ahead and do it when they want. Teenagers take numerous showers and stop only when the hot water runs out."
He said some new houses are even installing two water heaters so there is no waiting for hot water.
"The trend 30 years ago was different," Ahluwalia said. Now, "people find it inconvenient or uncomfortable to plan. They don't want to feel like penny pinchers."