Las Vegas is a technological marvel.
Forget the fact that the Sin City is in the middle of a vast desert, the grand architecture, world-class amenities and party atmosphere of the Vegas is being copied in other places like Dubai and Macau.
The city’s location gives it a more mythical status, the fact is it takes a lot of work to get water to the nearly 3 million people who call the Las Vegas Valley home and the millions and millions of people who visit the city every year.
Nevada (along with California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado) draws water from the Colorado River, which draws water from the snow caps of the Rocky Mountains.
Las Vegas in particular has been experiencing explosive growth at the same time snowpack in the Rockies is falling to emergency levels.
That development is forcing authorities to step in with new proposals that could affect water use in the city.
New Rules for The Strip
The Las Vegas Water District is proposing new rules designed to curb water use in the valley.
One proposal would bar new resort hotels from including water features, like fountains, in their designs. The other two proposals would place a $9 fee for every 1,000 gallons of use over the seasonal water limit for single-family homes and shrinking water budgets for golf courses by a third.
The proposals will be voted on by the water district board once a public comment period concludes.
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Southern Nevada gets about 90% of its water from the Colorado River, and last week the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation announced that Nevada will have to cut its water consumption from the Colorado River by 8% in 2023.
Nevada uses the smallest amount of water of the seven states that draw from it.
Part of the reason for the low totals in the state is its conservation and water recycling policies.
About 40% of the water in the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s service area is used indoors, like in casino hotels and their fountains. Of that amount, about 99% is recycled.
Nevada says that nearly 100% of the water used indoors, including in Vegas, is captured and reclaimed through the state’s waste water system where it is treated to clean water standards.
Vegas’ Thirst for Water
Despite the conservation efforts, Las Vegas’ need for water in the middle of the desert is still a problem at a time when water levels in the region are so low.
“This is a huge political discussion, but we’re going to need more water,” Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, said during a presentation at the Orleans, the Las Vegas Sun reported. “I think, at some point, the federal government is going to have to step in and override some of the debate that’s been happening at the state and regional levels.”
The Colorado river flows into Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the 726-foot high Hoover Dam about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The lake has fallen to record lows in recent years as climate change has shifted precipitation patterns in the mountains.
Feldman believes there is a solution but does not think the city or even the state can handle the problem on their own.
“At some point in America’s future, we’re going to have to deal with desalination, I don’t see any way around that. That’s not something we’d want to see from the states. We’d want the federal government to step in on that,” he said.