The Las Vegas water conservation model

Sammy Roth, a reporter for the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, took a trip this month to Las Vegas to share with his California readers how they do the water conservation thing in urban Nevada:

When it comes to saving water, Sin City has the Coachella Valley beat.

Las Vegas can credit its water frugality to a combination of fines, rigorous enforcement, generous grass-removal incentives and aggressive education campaigns. Developers aren’t allowed to build homes with grass in the front yards, and golf courses pay huge penalties when they exceed their water budgets. Conservation ads have featured a man getting kicked in the groin for spraying too much water on his lawn.


The Las Vegas “decoupling”

I’ve shared this before, some of the data I’ve been accumulating during my book research, but it bears repeating – a really remarkable decoupling of water use from Las Vegas’s economic and population growth:


Las Vegas Colorado River water use

Roth makes a point that I’ve heard a lot in my conversations about the Las Vegas conservation success story – that the visceral experience of watching nearby Lake Mead drop has helped Las Vegas-area residents grasp their water risk:

For Las Vegas and its suburbs, drought is easy to visualize.

The city depends on nearby Lake Mead for the vast majority of its water supply, and over the last 15 years the reservoir’s water levels have been dropping. Images of the white “bathtub ring” around the lake’s edge, which shows how high the water used to be, have become synonymous with crippling drought in the Southwest.