How Las Vegas Water Problem Was Fixed

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In 1936, the federal government completed the Hoover Dam, blocking the flow of the uncontrollable Colorado River creating Lake Mead. Water from Lake Mead reserve gets divided between California, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico. Las Vegas is known for being a major tourist attraction with its big lights, gambling but most important the Bellagio fountain. In order to keep the fountain going and any other attractions including water, Vegas has been known to be one of the leading states in reconfiguring water. The water resource center currently treats up to 5 million gallons per day of recycled water. The facility plans to expand to treating 10 gallons a day for use at golf courses, parks, and more attractions. Which introduces my main thoughts on how reliable Las Vegas is managing its water supply.

Patricia Mulroy was a big asset to fixing the Las Vegas water problem. In 2001 she endorsed a bill with Arizona. It would pay an equivalent price to Arizona to buy water from farms and store it underground. In return, the Water Authority could take an equivalent portion of Arizona’s share of the Colorado River directly from Lake Mead. The bill was the first transfer of water between two states, but her management team called it an exercise just to see how much water to properly distribute between the other states.

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Mulroy disagreed, “ we can't pick and choose who gets water.” (Lustgarten). Mulroy has only ever spoken about the water transfer indirectly. “Don’t ever call it a transfer,” she rebuked during a 2008 interview. “It’s a banking agreement. That thing will disappear on us tomorrow if we call it a transfer.” (Lustgarten). Las Vegas was illegally pumping more water than it was supposed to but because of Mulroy friendship with the former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the water master of the Colorado River, he praised Mulroy work and authority so much that he signed a document that gives California, Arizona, and Nevada access to a “surplus” from the Colorado River water for the next 15 years, even if they have to draw down Lake Mead to create that surplus.

Mulroy pitched an idea that turned into a disaster, she wanted to cut off the Bellagio fountain to conserve water but the state of Nevada was not too pleased to hear that. “You start turning those water fountains off, and it will have an effect on visitors.” (Fisherman 6). For Mulroy, her idea wasn't about the visitors or the people it was about economics. “ It’s perfectly natural to say fewer people will come to visit the city if that fountain at the Bellagio is not here,” says Mulroy. “ But I will still go to the grocery store without a fountain. I will still go to the dentist without a babbling brook in the lobby”. (Fisherman 6). Las Vegas disagreed. “ We said, okay, you can keep your fountains if you take out enough grass to save fifty times the amount of water the fountains use.” (Fisherman 6).

Water levels at Lake Mead have been dropping resulting in a shortage for years. More and more demands have been requested by Las Vegas in order to keep its reputation and tend to it's growing population. 90 percent of Nevada’s water is coming from Lake Mead, meaning they are receiving the most of the water supply than the other three states. City officials have already researched ways to lower the state water use by 30 percent. Southern Nevada came up with a water conservation program called, “ Cash for Grass.” The program was simple, each homeowner was paid $1.50 for each square foot of grass that’s replaced with water-efficient desert landscaping. The result of this program was successful, more than 9.6 billion gallons of water were saved last year.

Las Vegas is located in the desert. The climate is described to typically have long hot summers, warm transitional seasons with short and mild winters. The annual rainfall is 4.17 in. The city should basically be dried up but because of it's costly water intake systems, the city has become the conservation of the west side. Vegas has yet to do anything to radically affect its water-saving measures.“Las Vegas presents a model of how quickly the landscape can change when a city moves aggressively,” Other cities that are experiencing a drought should take notes from Nevada.

Over the past decade, 9.2 gallons of water have been saved through grass removal. Water levels have been cut by a third even while the population continues to grow Having the proper management for the water supply in Vegas is important. Without water management, there wouldn't be anyone to stop the abuse of unnecessary water being used. There are city officials that come up with ideas to conserve water such as the “ cash for grass” and the underwater tanks for a rainy day. The water is being managed to make sure over the next couple of years the state wouldn't have to declare an emergency water drought.

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