Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The Las Vegas Valley uses about 180 billion gallons of water every year, enough to fill the Bellagio Fountains more than 8,000 times. The water that flows from your faucet may have traveled as far as 1,000 miles, spanning a watershed stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Canyon. The premium you pay for fresh water may seem like just another household or business expense. Yet, water is Nevada’s most precious resource.
Nevadans are entitled to less than 2 percent of the Colorado River’s flow. Moreover, the state’s water resources are shrinking. No reservoir better demonstrates that vulnerability than Lake Mead. The largest reservoir in the United States has endured drought conditions since 2000, and demand for water from the lake is only increasing. The Las Vegas Sun showcases a dwindling countdown to the day in 2021 some estimate Lake Mead run could dry.
But there is hope, if we take action to use water wisely. This week, the largest urban-water efficiency conference in the world is in Las Vegas. At the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition, communities from across the country will compare methods to eliminate wasteful water use. The EPA’s WaterSense program, which helps protect our water supply by offering simple ways to use less water, is one of the conference’s main sponsors. Since its inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save nearly 500 billion gallons of water and $9 billion in water and energy bills.
Fortunately, the Southern Nevada Water Authority leads the nation in promoting water conservation. The SNWA offers up to $300,000 in “cash for grass” if customers convert their lawns into desert landscaping, and it provides environmentally friendly car wash coupons and rebates for swimming pool covers. These efforts have helped Southern Nevada’s consumption of Colorado River water decrease by nearly 30 billion gallons in the past 10 years.
Through incentives and regulations, water suppliers can encourage savvy water use. However, each of us bears the ultimate responsibility for saving water. By cutting down on shower and lawn watering time, waiting for a full load before doing your laundry and washing dishes, and replacing leaky faucets and outdated toilets and showerheads with WaterSense-labeled products, you can save both money and the environment.
I urge you to spend the time to examine your water bill, consider your water use, and take advantage of the resources available to you through WaterSense and your local utilities to make your home water smart.
Nancy Stoner is the assistant administrator for Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.