Landscape irrigation, evaporative cooling consume the majority of community’s water supply

The recent exposure of Lake Mead’s Intake 1 is a stark reminder of the threat ongoing drought poses to Las Vegas’ water supply.  Despite the challenging conditions, however, Southern Nevada is the most water-secure metropolitan area in the desert Southwest.

“We have two key advantages that protect our most critical water needs,” said J.C. Davis, enterprise conservation manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). “First, we capture and recover nearly all water used indoors, so those uses are secure. Second, we invested more than $1 billion in a new intake and pumping facilities to draw water from near the bottom of Lake Mead.”

Understanding that Nevada’s Colorado River allocation will be curtailed as Lake Mead shrinks, the SNWA and its member agencies are implementing aggressive conservation measures focused on landscaping and evaporative cooling.

“Unlike other Southwestern cities, which could be left high and dry if Lake Mead falls below Hoover Dam’s outlets, the Las Vegas Valley is well-protected in terms of maintaining indoor uses,” Davis said. “However, outdoor uses must be reduced. We need to change the way we cool warehouses, resorts and large commercial buildings, and we need to get rid of ornamental grass.”

The SNWA is exploring a moratorium on water-cooled systems in new development. The SNWA also is funding studies to identify high-performing water-efficient cooling systems and determine the impact of alternative technologies on water consumption and energy use. Additionally, the SNWA offers significant incentives—up to 50 percent of the new equipment cost—for businesses willing to exchange their old evaporative coolers for more water-efficient systems.

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Lake Mead’s water level has dropped about 150 feet over the past 20 years, exposing Intake No. 1. As water levels continue drop, the SNWA and its member agencies are implementing aggressive conservation measures to protect the community’s water supply.

Progressive, new conservation measures aimed at protecting the community’s water supply include prohibiting grass and spray irrigation in all new developments and a possible moratorium on water-cooled systems in new development.