The Water Shortage in Las Vegas

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In honor of Blog Action Day, I am publishing an extra post here at The Vegas Solo for this week dedicated to examining the water shortage in Las Vegas.  In case you don’t know what Blog Action Day is, it’s a day every year when bloggers from around the globe unite together around a common cause to promote awareness and perhaps inspire action.  This year’s cause is access to clean water. To be honest, I was just going to write about this topic on my other blog, but the more I started thinking about the lack of access to water, the more I realized it’s a topic that hits pretty close to home in Las Vegas.

Bellagio fountains

The fountains aren’t as much a waste of water as you might think.

I love visiting Las Vegas for so many reasons. I love hanging out by the pool and watching the dancing fountains at the Bellagio as much as the next person.  I dig the fact that there is a shark reef and a dolphin habitat there, in the desert. Like most other Las Vegas visitors, I go there as an escape to get away from the “real world” for awhile.  I know most people don’t want to think about serious topics such as a water shortage on their Las Vegas vacations.  But we need to remember that people live and work in Las Vegas, too.  If they run out of water, that affects all of us who love the city.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

See that white ring? That’s how high the water should be.

I don’t claim to be any kind of water expert, nor do I completely comprehend all the political issues at work out West.  But it doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s not a lot of water in a desert, and Las Vegas is located in a desert.  And even I noticed on my very first visit to Nevada that the water level at Lake Mead was far below what it should be.  Further complicating things is that the water deal that was struck between Nevada and other states years ago over who had what percentage of water rights to the Colorado River took place at a time when Vegas hardly had a population. No one could have foreseen its tremendous growth or the need for a greater percentage of water. This is a serious problem that the city has struggled with for years.  If something isn’t done to find new sources, the unimaginable could happen and Las Vegas could run out of water.

What is Las Vegas doing to combat this water shortage?  They created the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which has implemented measures to conserve water. They’re making a difference.   “Southern Nevada’s annual water consumption decreased by nearly 26 billion gallons between 2002 and 2009, despite a population increase of 400,000 during that span and approximately 40 million annual visitors.”  While this is a good start, it’s not going to solve the problem.

I have no magic bullet to suggest that will miraculously solve Las Vegas’s water problems.  My only suggestion is that, if you care about Las Vegas, you learn more about its water shortage by reading up on it.  Here are some articles to get you started:

14 thoughts on “The Water Shortage in Las Vegas

  1. Anonymous

    As someone who lives in Las Vegas, I can tell you that this is a very serious issue. Environmental topics of all sort are all the rage in Las Vegas, primarily because this city grew faster than expected, but water, in particular, is a hot topic. As you mentioned, the SNWA has a very strategic program to help curb water usage in the city. We have very specific times in which we’re allowed to water our yards. We’re also told how much water we should be using for certain plants and what types of water systems we should be using. That said, there is a problem with people moving to Las Vegas and thinking they can just do whatever they want with their yards, but the fact of the matter is that grass doesn’t grow in the desert and people shouldn’t try to force it to. The city has implemented a program that pays people to remove grass and install desert landscaping instead, and that seems to be making a big difference.

    Regarding the things that visitors can do, it would be appreciated if you could minimize your water usage. Request that your towels and sheets are washed daily. Don’t dilly-dally in the shower. Use a reusable water bottle and minimize your garbage waste. Most importantly, just be mindful of the water situation when you visit Las Vegas, and realize that, while the city is a lot of fun, it is a home to thousands of people as well.

    1. Vegas Solo

      I’m so glad to hear your point of view, JoAnna, I was hoping you would speak up as someone who lives firsthand with the water rationing in Vegas. I assume you meant request that sheets and towels are NOT washed daily, to which I agree. If we don’t do it at home, why would we need to when we’re on vacation? Thanks for your perspective, JoAnna!

  2. Charles Higgins

    You bring up excellent points and concerns about the Vegas water supply ( or lack thereof ). Unfortunately, true reality is often overlooked in Vegas. Good read..thanks.

    Charles Higgins

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  4. Mark Atwood

    When..if ever.. will Las Vegas pay for the building of desalination plants in California….to then get more water from the river and send less water to Calif??? California already has plans for building it’s own desalination plants. If Las Vegas doesn’t get onboard…California could end up with all the desalination plants it can handle and have no need for Las Vegad to build them one.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Mark – I’m sorry, I am not aware of this aspect of the issue. How would it benefit Las Vegas to pay to build a desalination plant for California?

      1. Mark

        Las Vegas would benefit from paying for California desalination
        plant(s)…because the water California would get would be used to offset what they get from the Colorado River…..which leaves more water for Las Vegas. I am not an engineer and don’t know the math to this approach and this was not my idea….I read it on another website. In theory….it sounds good.
        Another idea….a water pipeline from the Columbia River….or the Missouri River….or the Mississippi River. The residents along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers have plenty of water tho spare when it floods. The Columbia River pour billions and billions and billions of gallons of water every second of every day into the ocean….WASTED. Built one or more of these pipelines!!!! Spend the money and do it!!!!!!

    2. Mark Atwood

      One and only one real long term solution is NOT pumping out ground water…or a deeper “straw” at the deepest point of Lake Mead. The ONLY solution is a water pipeline. The country is criss crossed with oil/ gas pipelines. Pipelines work.
      BUILD. A. WATER PIPELINE from the Columbia River ( which wastefully pours trillions of gallons of water every second of every day into the ocean near Portland ) ….to somewhere upstream of a Lake Mead. If this is not done we will have no-water toilets and corn cob dry wipes.

  5. Mark

    I just might have a MAGIC BULLET for solving the water crisis shortage for Las Vegas…and MORE areas as well.!!!! Very simply… spent the money….spend the money…..spend the money to build a pipeline from Portland Oregon…The mouth of the Columbia River….. to a point upstream of Lake Mead. We can build the keystone pipeline… but we can’t save everything and everyone by building this water pipeline????? The Columbia River pours billions and billions and zillions of gallons of water into the ocean…unwanted and unused by either Oregon or Washington. This River has dams etc etc way upstream from Portland OR…don’t be fooled by some idiot talking about such projects way upstream in the River. Amazing !’!!! The water is there!!’ Spend the money to redistribute it to where it is wanted and needed !!!!!! DUH !!!!!

  6. Mark Atwood

    Gray….I provided a good solution. We just need the various cities/ states to jointly pitch in on the cost. Incidentally…getting Las Vegas and Nevada to get with it on the water pipeline solution could improve their current position of near last in line for water rights.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Perhaps, Mark, I don’t know. Getting any number of cities/states to not only agree on a solution but pay for it is probably like tilting at windmills.

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