With Nevada’s already-small allocation of Colorado River set to be cut by more than 8 billion gallons next year, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has been aggressively moving to reduce consumptive uses of water in the community. Because virtually all indoor water is captured and recovered, opportunities to achieve meaningful reductions primarily involve landscaping and evaporative cooling.

AB-356, a state law prohibiting the use of the community’s water supply to irrigate non-functional grass on business properties, is already in force. To address evaporative cooling—which is estimated to represent up to 10 percent of the community’s water consumption—the SNWA has proposed a moratorium on the use of such systems in new construction and has solicited feedback from NAIOP and other industry representatives.

“Our goal is not to inhibit commercial development, but rather to reduce the water footprint of these new properties,” explained SNWA Enterprise Conservation Manager J.C. Davis. “If you remove swamp coolers from the equation, large warehouses and industrial spaces use very little water. Given the condition of Lake Mead, evaporative cooling is not a luxury our community can afford.”

Initial concerns about the feasibility of non-evaporative cooling are negated by the fact that, in large swaths of the country where the humidity is high, warehouse and industrial spaces are exclusively air conditioned.

An effective date for the proposed moratorium has not been set. While the SNWA has no plans to require retrofits for existing cooling systems, it does offer an incentive of up to 50 percent of the hard costs associated with replacing swamp coolers with air-cooled systems, or for modifications that reduce the existing system’s water use. For more information, visit snwa.com.

SNWA has proposed a moratorium on evaporative cooling systems in new construction to help protect Southern Nevada’s limited water supply. Evaporative coolers account for 10 percent of the community’s water consumption each year.

Southern Nevada’s water supply will be cut by more than 8 billion gallons next year due to shortage conditions in the Colorado River Basin.

Lake Mead’s water levels have dropped more than 170 feet since 2000 due to a megadrought impacting the basin.