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Sin City Las Vegas is Paving the Way For Water Conservation

While The Strip’s dazzling lights amid an arid desert might signal pompous flair, Las Vegas has been quietly working towards being a model for sustainability and water conservation.

Las Vegas’ resource deficit problem seemed darkly familiar in our age of climate crisis. Despite having the US’s largest man-made reservoir (Lake Mead), the city faces serious issues of water scarcity. 2002 was a turning point, with the Colorado River clocking in the lowest-ever recorded flow while the Southern Nevada Water Association used more water than it had ever before. 

However, the city’s turnaround to conscious water management has been nothing short of phenomenal. Here’s what Las Vegas did to turn around a serious issue of water scarcity and become a model for water conservation: 

Incentivizing landscaping replacement

The biggest culprit for Las Vegas’ water scarcity issue has been landscaping, with every square foot of lawn using up 73 gallons of water each year (source). To combat the issue, the city started to incentivize the replacement of lawns with water-smart landscaping – with each square foot of replacement being awarded $3. The program helped save 11 billion gallons of water each year. 

Then, the city officials banned grassy front yards, with the goal of removing all non-functional grass before 2027. The Water Smart Landscape Rebate program has saved more than 176 billion gallons of water since 1999. 

Banning big pools

Apart from lawns, the Southern Nevada Water Authority set its eyes on indoor pools as well. It set an upper limit for the size of indoor pools in single-family homes to 600 square feet. City officials believe that this will help save the city roughly 32 million gallons of water in a decade (source). It is important to note that several large indoor pools targeted by these building codes belonged to affluent homes which are not occupied year-round. 

Reusing indoor water

Even if you drain a glass of water in Las Vegas, it is not wasted. This is thanks to the city’s indoor water recycling program. “Everything we use indoors is recycled. If it hits a drain in Las Vegas, we clean it. We put it back in Lake Mead,” said John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. This leads to The Strip’s commercial properties using only 5% of the total water supply in the community.

Commercial water efficiency

Since 2001, Las Vegas’ commercial properties have saved over 19 billion gallons of water through water-efficient technologies like high efficiency toilets, waterless urinals, and artificial-surface sports fields (source). The city was able to pull this off through various forms of rebates and incentives for participating businesses. 

Lessons From Las Vegas’ Water Conservation Program:

Las Vegas’ water conservation program has lessons for everyone. Through various efforts, the city has brought down per capita water usage by a staggering 58%. Moreover, consumption from the Colorado River has also been reduced by 42%. More information can be found on Southern Nevada Water Authority’s official website

To start with, it successfully depicts the possibility of conscious resource usage in favor of an abundant tomorrow. With persistent measures, the Las Vegas Strip continues to thrive without hampering the city’s ability to run out of precious natural resources. The city’s successful water conservation programs show the possibility of intelligent consumption as a sustainability measure that does not hamper quality of life. 

Second, the city officials’ coercive efforts are a prime example of the usage of incentives and rebates to implement positive social change. With well-planned and well-executed policies, massive transformations – which are necessary to combat climate change – are not only possible, but also beneficial to everyone involved. For instance, did you know that commercial properties can earn rebates for installing high-efficiency water heaters?