The water situation in Las Vegas has always defied appearances. The city sits in the Mojave Desert, yet it also sits atop a large (but finite and diminishing) aquifer. It also looks to most people like the main use (and presumed waste) of water comes from the ostentatious hotel fountains and luxury golf courses. But that view, also, isn’t true.
A recent article titled, “Water in Las Vegas: coping with scarcity, financial and cultural constraints” by Frederic Lasserre in the journal City, Territory and Architecture analyzes the water challenges Las Vegas does face, and finds that the hotel/hospitality industry has actually been very aggressive in instituting conservation tactics like low-flow toilets and showers. And those fountains and golf courses? Rely on recycled water.
Rather, most of Las Vegas’ water use comes from households; and that while the per capita water use has gone down somewhat in recent years, the city’s overall population growth has more than canceled that out. And that, while there are actions that the city has taken, those actions will eventually lose effectiveness.
Among the things that Las Vegas has implemented are incentives for residents to reduce their “outdoor” water use; so the city has outlawed grass lawns in favor of more desert-climate-appropriate landscaping. Las Vegas has also instituted water rates that go up with usage so that beyond the water volume typically used for washing, drinking and cooking, those using water for vehicle washing, lawn-watering, and swimming pools face higher rates.
Yet as the population grows—and as the aquifer depletes, and as less water is available from Lake Meade and the Colorado River, Las Vegas still faces an ongoing water problem. Laserre concludes, “Managing the water supply dilemma for Las Vegas is thus finding a precarious equilibrium between economic, political, [and] technical imperatives.”
You can read the entire open access article here.