Las Vegas Water Conservation Plan has been a huge success story. But we are always asked if Las Vegas will run out of water. The above picture was taken in 2015 at Lake Mead’s lowest water level ever. Homes and businesses have saved over 40% of their previous use levels, and there’s more being done every day. As Realtors, we are constantly asked the below questions, so I’ll answer them for you.
- What is the water situation in Las Vegas?
- What’s going on here with the drought?
- Is conservation hard to live with?
Water Drought and Conservation
Sometimes it seems like everyone I talk to asks about the drought in Las Vegas. My answer to the above questions tends to be along the line of “Is there a drought still?” Actually, in 2020 there was no measurable rain at McCarran airport for over 250 days. Other parts of the Las Vegas Valley had rain, but measurements are taker at McCarran.
Snowfall levels are still low this winter, so we anticipate Lake Mead’s water levels going down this year. Las Vegans have been conserving water for so long that it has become a lifestyle and is hardly noticed. When the drought is finally over, I doubt that our lives will change. Conservation is a lifestyle that is pretty easy to live with.
Las Vegas enjoys over 300 sunny days a year. The problem during the last decade or two is the lack of continuous rain. 2020 had no monsoon rain during the summer. Ultimately, it’s tough to fill Lake Mead with our annual rain and snowfall. Las Vegas averages 4.19 inches of rain per year, making it the driest medium-sized city in the United States.
Phoenix averages 8.03 inches annually, almost twice the rainfall in Las Vegas. Los Angeles averages 15.1 inches of rain a year, and Miami is the place ducks like most with a 59-inch average rainfall. Las Vegas Valley’s rainfall added to our minimal snowpack absolutely does not sustain the water needs of 2 million residents and the 250,000 tourists every week.
Because Las Vegas is such a diverse city, we are not normal water users. Think about it: every resident and tourist use ice and water for food, drink, and dishwashing. They also need to bathe and use the restroom. Then there is the landscaping with grass and water-guzzling palm trees.
Every one of our sparkling pools in town is guilty of evaporation, plus they lose water with every splash and every time a person leaves a pool. Golf courses have to be watered to keep green. Streets and sidewalks need to be cleaned even when it’s hot. Construction sites also have to spray water to keep the dust down. We consume. We grow very little food.
Where Does The Water Come From?
The Colorado River supplies 90% of Southern Nevada’s water. The other 10% of the city’s water is taken out of water company owned community wells scattered around the valley. The Las Vegas Valley Water District wells, residential private wells, and residential community wells make up the other 10% with aquifer water.
Supply and Demand:
The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is the agency responsible for negotiating and supplying water to the entire valley. SNWA has done an excellent job over the years to ensure we have ample Colorado River Rights. There are agreements in place that will supply the valley for decades to come.
Virgin River Water Rights coming from Utah is an optional future resource. Currently, the demand doesn’t justify the expense that would be involved to pipe that river and make a new pumping station. A lesser expense would be to pipe the Virgin River into the Colorado River and use the existing pumping station, but it is 50 years old, and that creates problems too. For now, we need to enjoy the Virgin River while it remains wild. The Virgin River Gorge along I-15 is an absolutely lovely place. I think keeping the Virgin River basin wild and its water enhancing our local desert’s beauty is worth the cost of conservation.
Southeast of the Las Vegas Valley is Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Ten years ago, there were over 100 miles of lake shoreline. Not any more. Water released from Utah’s Glen Canyon and Lake Powell flows into Lake Mead. Lake Powell started releasing the minimal amount of water required by law after the drought became a problem. Lake Mead then released more water than it took to supply Nevada, Arizona, California, and Northern Mexico.
In May of 2016, Lake Mead’s water level reached its lowest point since originally being filled in May of 1937. The lake’s water level today, in December of 2019, is 6 feet higher than December of 2018. With Lake Mead being the largest man-made reservoir in the country, there is no danger of it drying up. I believe that due to the water and electrical resources Lake Mead provides to the entire Southwest, Lake Mead will have water.
If the Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority and these mammoth hotels have anything to say about it, not one whisper of water trouble in paradise would get out. Tourism had 51.3% of Southern Nevada’s gross domestic product, totaling 57.6 Billion dollars, in 2018. Maybe they’ll buy some rain…
Las Vegas Water Conservation:
Community effort and awareness made Las Vegas shine as an example of water conservation success. Las Vegas Valley residents managed to reduce the per-person water usage by 40% during the last 15 years!
About 15 years ago, a county-wide effort to remove water features and grass landscaping started. Homes now install re-circulation systems, tank-less water heaters, water-efficient appliances, and low-flow fixtures. Desert plants, decorative metal and cement art, and hard-scaping are now used with rock-scaping on the streets, community areas and, freeways.
Business Water Plan
Businesses, as well as residents, implemented the Las Vegas water conservation plan. Some businesses get water usage cut-off amounts. Everyone has an assigned automatic sprinkler watering days. People became aware of their usage, and watering enforcement patrols were started to educate and help. More cars are using car washes where water is recirculated. Nozzles have gone onto our hoses. It has all worked!
The people and the Las Vegas Valley cities have created a huge resource change for our state and our planet by working together. Because of on-going technology shifts and lifestyle changes, when over 60,000 new residents relocated to Las Vegas last year, there wasn’t much of an increase in total water usage. We think that it’s because conservation has become a way of life.
It Makes Us Happy
We are conserving water. When told that I cannot wash our cars by hand without a nozzle on the hose, I decided that I HAD to go to the car wash. No grass means no mowing, no gardener, and lower water bills. Instant hot water for tea and coffee is pretty great, and a hot water recirculating system makes my shower hot almost instantly. These things make me happy! Conservation can be a great thing!
Conserving water saves us time. The pool fills itself, and I never over-fill it anymore. The pool’s water feature only runs when I turn it on manually, which means I HAVE to sit and enjoy it.
The yard waters itself at night. Our landscaper trims the bushes and sprays weeds 3 times a year. We blow dust and leaves the patio instead of hosing it off. It seems that we expend minimal effort to conserve water, and that’s all it takes to do our part.
History and Water Fun
The Springs Preserve is located on the historic spot where many pioneers camped. For over 100 years, trains stopped there while crossing the desert to get water. Water from an underground aquifer was overflowing and bubbling out, creating a desert oasis into the 20th century. The same site where people gathered for hundreds of years still has people gathering to learn, relax, eat, and drink.
Tourists and residents both enjoy boats ride on Lake Mead all year long. Of course, lounging by the pool at a hotel or the local water parks is mandatory fun, and watching the Fountains at Bellagio is a very joyful treat any time you see the show.
In conclusion, there is a lot of BIG business in Las Vegas. If we continue on this path, we will have plenty of valuable, cool, wet stuff for everyone to use and enjoy for many years to come!
Read our blog about conservation and sources “Is There A Water Shortage?”
This Blog was written for you by Kurt Grosse with Realty One Group. Kurt is a 25 year Las Vegas Valley Realtor who is a former Nevada Building Engineer (P.E., C.E.) Kurt uses his building knowledge to protect his clients every day. Call Kurt with questions or to schedule a housing consultation today – 702-750-7599.
Updated: February 2021
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