Las Vegas Water Supply Cut Next Year Under First-Ever Federal Mandate

Posted on: August 17, 2021, 03:24h. 

Last updated on: August 31, 2021, 05:50h.

The Las Vegas Strip — and the rest of Southern Nevada — will get less water in 2022 under the federal government’s first water-shortage declaration on the Colorado River.

Lake Mead water levels
Water levels at Lake Mead have fallen to historic lows. Images from 2000 (left) and 2021 show the dramatic difference in water reserves. (Image: KLAS)

The reduced water supply will require better conservation efforts to help combat next year’s shortfall of seven billion gallons, said John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

We live in the desert,” he said. “It’s time to act like it.”

The Colorado River feeds into Lake Mead, which supplies 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water. The lake is the nation’s largest reservoir by volume, but is less than 40 percent full. Lake Mead is at its lowest since being filled when Hoover Dam was completed in the mid-1930s, according to CNN.

For decades, water concerns in the Las Vegas Valley have led to finger-pointing regarding excessive usage. Some locals blame casinos, with their swimming pools and water features, for wasted water. Others note that residential users, some accustomed to green lawns where they lived before moving to a fast-growing city in the Mojave Desert, are the biggest problem.

In a YouTube video posted this week, Entsminger said grass-watering is where conservation efforts should be focused.

“Grass is the biggest water guzzler here in the valley,” Entsminger said. “It’s not Strip resorts, golf courses, or parks.”

Single-family homes “by far use the most water, mostly for outdoor landscape irrigation,” he said.

Thirsty Grass

Entsminger said a hotter, drier climate has meant a reduced snowpack in the Colorado Rockies, “which means less water flowing into the Colorado River and Lake Mead,” Las Vegas’ primary water source.

“Whether you’re a newcomer to the Las Vegas Valley or you’ve lived here for decades, you know we’re facing tough water challenges, and they’re about to get tougher,” he said. “We’re in what some would call a megadrought that isn’t showing any signs of letting up.”

The water authority is urging residents to follow mandatory seasonal water restrictions and to report lawn sprinklers that either doesn’t hit the grass or shoot water into neighborhood streets. Conservation would save tens of millions of gallons of water each year, Entsminger said

“We have to seriously step up water conservation,” he said.

Entsminger also said the water authority will pay residents to replace their “thirsty grass” with desert-friendly landscaping.

“If you have grass that serves no recreational value, get rid of it,” he said.

‘Not the Silver Bullet’

Entsminger added that the water authority has water set aside in reserve and has made some infrastructure improvements to protect the Las Vegas Valley’s water supply.

Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal conservation alone will not solve the problem. The network has called for developers to identify water supplies before construction can begin.

“Conservation is not the silver bullet, but it’s part of the silver buckshot strategy,” he told the newspaper.

The US Bureau of Reclamation, which announced the water shortage declaration this week, will begin the first tier of cuts on Jan. 1, CNN reported.

The Colorado River supplies water throughout the West for 40 million people.