Vegas planning for a dry future, smaller share of river water

Sin City is preparing for a time when it might have to go without. Without its full share of Colorado River water, that is.

“We’re planning for a future without access to our (Colorado River) compact entitlement,” John Entsminger, senior deputy general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told about 200 people at the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s water seminar Friday at Two Rivers Convention Center.

Las Vegas is far from profligate with its use of water from the Colorado, Entsminger said.

Not only is all the water used indoors on the famous Las Vegas Strip treated and returned to nearby Lake Mead, the city has instituted significant conservation efforts, Entsminger said.

As a result, its water use fell from 325,000 acre feet of water in 2002 to 222,000 acre feet in 2012 while the city population grew by 400,000.

Part of the reason for that is high water rates that put Las Vegas in the top 15 percent of western cities, he said.

Las Vegas, meanwhile, has started its own transbasin diversions of water from within the state and is working with other lower-basin states on projects to desalinate salt water, he said.

The state’s Colorado River water is pivotal for 70 percent of the state’s economy, Entsminger said.

Las Vegas uses most of the state’s 350,000 acre feet of water, a portion of the 7.5 million acre feet of water the upper basin of the Colorado River is required to deliver annually to the lower basin.


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