Las Vegas recycles all indoor water, purifying it, then sending it back to Lake Mead to be used again. Although its population is now 2 million, Vegas uses less Colorado River water than it did 15 years ago when the population was less than 1.5 million. (Phoenix and Tucson are doing the same; more people, less per capita use.) Southern Nevada is allowed just 1.8% of Colorado River water and isn’t using its full allotment now, even though it is the primary source of water.
Water journalist John Fleck comments:
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:
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:
A Coachella Valley newspaper looks at how Vegas saves water and is impressed.
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.
When we moved to Vegas last year, the first thing we did was rip out the lawn, replacing it with small rocks and xeriscaping. We have a pool with a floating pool cover. Our water bill last month was a mere $32. Conservation is indeed possible, and Las Vegas encourages it. The pool cover came with a discount from the water agency and a new pool pump had a similar subsidy from the power company. (many forms of electricity generation require water, and variable speed pumps use less power.)