Water conservation

Focus on our water footprint in times of drought


LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Despite being in the midst of the longest sustained drought we’ve ever seen and on the brink of a federally declared water shortage, every day in Las Vegas water is being used to play.

The valley is home to not one but two water parks. Cowabunga Bay and Wet’n’Wild provide sweltering relief to hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists each summer.

And it’s not just the mega-slides and lazy rivers where we get our fix of water. Water also plays a recreational role on the Las Vegas Strip. Many casinos have multiple pools or fountains, perhaps the most obvious and grandest example being the Bellagio.

So, are we flippant and wasteful? Isn’t Lake Mead’s water level at its lowest point since the dam was created in the 1930s? The answer to the latter is yes, but the first question is not what it seems on the surface.

THE GREAT ADVANTAGE OF LAS VEGAS

Las Vegas has a luxury that so many other cities don’t: we’re close to our water source.

Being physically close to Lake Mead – one of the Colorado River’s primary water storage reservoirs and by far our largest source of water locally – allows us to recycle much of our water back into the lake after it is used.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority says 40% of the region’s water is used indoors, and all of that indoor water is captured, treated and returned.

Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, and the Clark County Water Harvesting District each operate wastewater treatment facilities to help with this.

WHAT ABOUT WATER PARKS, SWIMMING POOLS, FOUNTAINS?

Using water outdoors is another story.

60% of the water supplied by the water authority cannot be recycled and this water is mainly used for irrigation and cooling of the landscape. But businesses can and do reuse the water that fills their pools and fountains.

“It cuts our costs because the more fresh water we have to put in, the more chemicals it costs us,” said Chris Norman, maintenance manager at Cowabunga Bay in Henderson.

“The more we can properly hold and balance the water for our customers, it helps everyone in the long run,” he added.

Norman says the Cowabunga Bay pool water is filtered 24 hours a day and the park clings to all of that water except for the backwash cycles.

“You could say we’re holding back as much as we can,” he said.

The playpen also avoids irritation during the night hours when the sun cannot evaporate the water before the plants can absorb it.

“We use a lot of drip pipes so that the water goes directly to the plants that need it and not to the dirt,” Norman added.

13 Action News asked the park how much water is used in a typical summer month and each year, and said it didn’t have that information immediately available. Check back for updates.

In the meantime, SNWA officials have made it clear that the use of water on the Las Vegas Strip and in water parks is not a threat to conservation efforts, as it is much more common and yet much less obvious.

WATER-WASTER IS HIDDEN IN VIEW

If proximity to Lake Mead is our secret weapon, weed is our kryptonite.

Specifically, the non-functional grass. The kind of grass you might see while driving on the freeway, used for decorative purposes and only ever touched by the person mowing it and making it look crisp.

Bronson Mack, a spokesperson for the water authority, told 13 Action News earlier this year that there were about 5,000 acres of non-functioning sod in southern Nevada. He says turf absorbs about 12 billion gallons of water each year.

But, not forever. It is also the kind of grass that has recently been banned for decorative purposes in office parks, entrances to subdivisions and medians.

Governor Steve Sisolak signed a law in June making Nevada the first state in the country to ban certain types of weed.

This takes effect in 2027 and does not apply to homes or parks.

STAY DILIGENT ABOUT CONSERVATION

In the Water Authority’s 2020 Water Resources Plan, the highest reported water use was for residential purposes.

Southern Nevada Waters Authority

A municipal meter usage table (2019) as presented in the Southern Nevada Water Authority 2020 Water Resources Plan.

Officials say water conservation is vital to Las Vegas’ future, but water conservation doesn’t necessarily mean closing water parks.

Rather, the message is that water recreation is part of the reason we conserve.

When Las Vegas experiences triple-digit heat on a summer day, say on a day it’s 117 degrees outside, jumping like a cannonball in a swimming pool can make the heat a little more bearable.

And then covering that pool when it’s no longer in use can keep the water from evaporating and becoming part of the 60% wasted water, helping to stretch our resources for the next record-breaking heat day.

For other ways to conserve water in the Las Vegas Valley, visit snwa.com.


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