The proposed water savings for southern Nevada to cope with the drought could change the look of the world-famous Las Vegas Strip, where thousands of visitors amble through rolling rivers opposite hotel casinos and watch colorful water shows at night.
A series of measures planned for metro Las Vegas to reduce water consumption would prevent new resort hotels from: water features in their designs, such as the popular Bellagio fountains in the Italian-themed Bellagio hotel.
One of three proposals outlined by the Las Vegas Valley Water District would see owners of single-family homes, starting next year, with a $9 fee for every 1,000 gallons they use above the seasonal water limit. According to another proposal, water budgets for golf courses shrink by a third by 2024.
The water board will vote on the proposals when the consultation period is over.
A rule that goes into effect Sept. 1 limits residential pools to a maximum size of 600 square feet. And in the future, water officials could further restrict outdoor water use as part of an ongoing preventative effort.
The proposed restrictions follow the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s recent announcement that Nevada would have to cut its Colorado River water usage by 8% next year as Western states struggle to reduce its reliance on the once-mighty river amid of a historic drought.
Nevada, which uses the least amount of water of the seven states that draw from the river, said it will reduce its annual allotment of 300,000 acre feet by 25,000 acre feet next year. Half a meter of water can supply two families of four children with water for a year. Nevada used 242,000 acre feet last year.
“It was something we knew was coming,” said Bronson Mack, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “We’ve prepared for it,” he said, adding that if more cuts are made, it will come from using open water.
The other states are Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, which have to come up with a plan to conserve another 2 million to 4 million acre feet of water from the river.
The Bureau of Water Reclamation gave states until last week to come up with a plan, but they failed to reach an agreement, opening the door for the federal government to intervene and cut spending cuts. to force. The agency has not yet taken that step.
“To avoid a catastrophic collapse of the Colorado river system and a future of uncertainty and conflict, water use in the basin must be reduced,” said Tanya Trujillo, an assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior. in a statement last week.
Drought has threatened the water levels of the Colorado River, which serves about 40 million people in the West and supports $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity, including agriculture and other trade.
The river also flows into Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the largest reservoirs in the country. The water level in Nevada’s Lake Mead hit an all-time low in June.
Throughout the region, dry riverbeds mark the landscape and previously productive farmland lies fallow due to insufficient irrigation.
The proposals are part of Nevada’s long history of staying on top of urban water use, said Bart Miller, director of the Healthy Rivers program at Western Resource Advocates in Colorado. The nonprofit conducts water usage analytics in the western US
“Las Vegas has been at the forefront of urban conservation for a number of years,” Miller said. “The river as a whole is entering a crisis and it is clear that we are using more water than the Colorado River can supply.”
Water use in Southern Nevada fell by 26% between 2002 and 2021, despite 750,000 new residents and nearly 40 million annual visitors, the water district said.
Tick Segerblom, program director of Las Vegas Water Defenders, which is committed to improving water conservation and increasing sustainability, called the proposals “good but symbolic.” He said water officials should increase the cost of water in addition to charging fees for overuse.
“The reality is that we need to increase the price of water and also make it more progressive,” Segerblom said. He suggested that the excess water allowance should be $100 for every 1,000 gallons used over the seasonal limit, rather than $9, with the extra money going toward water conservation measures.
In 2003, the Southern Nevada Water Authority banned front yard lawns and this year, any grass, including backyards, was banned.
Banning outdoor water features at new hotels won’t necessarily negatively impact tourism, said David G. Schwartz, a game historian and professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“Not many new hotels are being planned at the moment, so even if a ban is put in place, it might not have a major, immediate impact,” he said. “I don’t think the Bellagio is going anywhere.”
Golf courses in southern Nevada, which are currently limited to 6.3 acre feet of water per irrigated acre per year, would be reduced to 4 acre feet under the water district’s proposal.
In 2026, ornamental grass must be removed from street scenes, central reservations, parking lots, roundabouts and other areas on the basis of the Kingdom Act. It would save about 9.5 billion gallons of water annually, officials said.
“For the city to thrive, this is a necessary policy,” said Sean McKenna, executive director of the hydrological sciences division at Nevada’s Desert Research Institute, which researches global climate change, water quality and availability, air quality and the sustainability of desert areas.
“It’s a reality that southern Nevada faces,” he said. “It’s no news to anyone that Nevada is a desert and that we depend on the river and this is a part of the country that people want to move to.”