Should we embrace the Bellagio Fountain?

Bellagio Fountain

Bellagio Fountain

Humans here in the West use and therefore value water for basically three sorts of reasons:

  • for domestic use (cooking, bathing, drinking, flushing away waste)
  • for economic purposes (agriculture being the most obvious, but also things like computer chip manufacturing)
  • for environmental purposes (water in the river to look at and enjoy, for recreation, or because of the intrinsic value we place in water in the river and the ecosystems it supports)

It’s de regueur rigueur for writers of a certain sort to make fun of the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, as an example of grand excess in a water-scarce land. But I was thinking about the different ways we value water when I read this item from Vegas Inc.:

The Panama Canal, the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Harbor and the Bellagio Fountains.

All made TripAdvisor’s list of “most talked about attractions.”

Only 16 attractions made the cut, two for each major region in the world. The Bellagio Fountains joined New York’s Central Park as North America’s most talked about destinations.

The travel website based its picks on attractions that received the most reviews over the past year. The Bellagio Fountains received thousands, bringing its total to more than 5,000. All but 160 visitors rated the attraction as “excellent” or “very good.”

That’s a pretty high-value use of that water, I guess.


  1. Say that the Bellagio fountain evaporates 4000 liters of water a day into the atmosphere ( I don’t know if this is right) and that this water condenses into the ground a few miles east of Las Vegas. Then animals and plants that would not have existed without the fountain now exist and most of the water goes back into the aquifer.

    The average person in the U.S. (from the UN report) uses 575 liters of water per day.
    So the fountain uses about the same amount of water as 8 people who are staying in Las Vegas on a given day.

    There are 109,500 visitors to Las Vegas in an average day.

    So the usage of water by the fountain, while conspicuous, seems to have no impact on the use of water in Las Vegas. And the water that evaporates from the fountain is clean and not the black or gray water that the humans create.

    How should we think about the fountain’s use of water?

    Just my $0.25 (two cents, plus inflation on the original quote).

  2. I’d say that we should NOT be having this discussion. Do we discuss the value of avocados eaten at the Bellagio? The value of their chairs? How about the fuel to run that silly volcano? No? That’s b/c ALL OF THOSE COMMODITIES are priced appropriately for long run sustainability. The same COULD happen for water, but Pat Mulroy insists on selling to too cheap and then complaining that she’s not got enough (cue water grab elsewhere…)

    (same all over the colorado basin, of course)

  3. Since there’s no recreational water contact permitted in that pool with fountains, I wonder if they might be using tertiary recycled water? I don’t know the answer to that.

    OTOH a few years ago I was told by officials at the Southern Nevada Water Authority that many casinos and golf courses obtain their water from groundwater pumping.

    In any case, as with any pool evaporation raises the salinity level and eventually requires draining of the pool and refilling it with new water. I don’t know how often they have to do this at the Bellagio, but it would be logical to drain it into the sewer system, not the storm drains, because then it would go through LV’s post-tertiary advanced purification system (aka IPR) which returns almost all of LV’s wastewater to Lake Mead as a potable water source.

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