Municipal and agricultural use of Colorado River water: a comparison

Henry Brean reports on lawn removal efforts in Las Vegas, Nev.:

Since the turf rebate program was launched in 1999, it has paid out $189 million in rebates and helped eliminate more than 167 million square-feet of thirsty grass, saving an estimated 9 billion gallons of water per year.

Translated: a reduction of approximately 4,000 acres of lawn, and a bit less than 30,000 acre feet of water per year.

By comparison, the Imperial Irrigation District, Vegas’s downstream neighbor sharing in the Lower Colorado River Basin’s limited allocation of Colorado River water, reports more than 1 million irrigated acres, and will use approximately 2.6 million acre feet of water in 2013 (pdf).

Vegas numbers, impressive on their own, are quite literally a rounding error when you fold then into the Lower Basin’s overall water use.


  1. Their wasteful lawn removal efforts may be a rounding error, John, but 30k af is nothing to sneeze at (literally, the allergens are likely less in those areas of removal). And no one eats lawn, so the water may be going somewhere useful.

  2. @Dan — it’s probably going to new subdivisions.

    I’ll add that the rounding error is also difficult to calculate, as it combines cumulative spending (since 1999) with annualized reduction (30tafy). What’s the REAL cost per af conserved? Going further, has total water use in Vegas fallen? I bet not, but I can never find good numbers (thanks SNWA!)

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