Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2019

Currently: 47° — Complete forecast

The Strip might use less water than you think


Las Vegas Sun file

A bird’s-eye view of the Las Vegas Strip at dusk, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.

The Las Vegas Strip only consumes about 1 percent of all water allocated to the state from the Colorado River, said Bronson Mack, Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman. That’s because each new casino built since 1991 has had to present a detailed water conservation plan to the Southern Nevada Water Authority before being approved for construction.

Similar to residences and small businesses, casinos have restrictions on the amount of grass they’re allocated for use. No natural grass is allowed in front of the properties, and only 50 percent of the properties’ back lawns can have grass. And while about 7 percent of the water allocated to Southern Nevada is given to resorts on the Strip and across the valley, most of that goes toward indoor use — meaning it’s later recycled and reused.

Mack said casinos’ primary water consumption comes from massive evaporative cooling systems used to keep the temperature down during the valley’s brutal summer months.

At Caesars Entertainment properties on the Strip, more than 12,000 digital thermostats with occupancy sensors detect whether guests are inside the room and automatically adjust room temperatures accordingly, said Eric Dominguez, the casino chain’s vice president of engineering and sustainability. The thermostats save the company more than $1 million each year in water costs.

Caesars in 2008 also equipped its rooms with low-flow shower heads and aerators, resulting in a 21 percent reduction per air-conditioned square foot. It also encourages its guests to use towels and sheets more than once. Doing so saves up to 17 million gallons of water, Dominguez said. The World Series of Poker, played at the Rio each year, has also raised $18.5 million since 2012 for the charitable organization One Drop, which provides children in developing countries with access to potable drinking water.

Erik Hansen, director of energy and sustainability for Wynn Las Vegas, said the ongoing removal of the casino’s 130-acre golf course to make way for a lagoon-themed water park and additional resort and convention space, will save more 100 million gallons of water per year. Hansen said Wynn also draws from private well water sources to help cool its buildings instead of taking from municipal sources.

“You don’t need to use potable water for cooling towers,” Hansen explained. “For us, we start converting that over and we were able to use a certain percentage of well water.”

Wynn is also investing in solar to operate parts of the hotel, Hansen said. With the more efficient energy systems, the resort could eventually use 1.2 billion gallons less water annually.

Representatives from MGM Resorts International did not respond to request for comment, while spokeswomen from SLS Las Vegas and the Cosmopolitan could not provide any information.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.