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How do they get all that water in Vegas?

I just got back from a ladies weekend in Las Vegas and if there is one urban query I took away from the whole trip, it was: where on Earth do they get all this water in the middle of a desert?? 

Maybe it is because we were staying at the Bellagio Hotel, where every hour a giant man-made pond spurts water into the air to the tunes of Celine Dion and Faith Hill.

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Bellagio Fountains spurting along to Celine Dion

All of the major hotels consume massive amounts of water and that doesn’t even include household water consumption in a city of almost 2 million people. Everywhere you look there are water fountains, water falls, water displays, even canals. Las Vegas has made water into an art form. 

Apparently the city of Las Vegas gets 88% of its public water from Lake Mead, a reservoir created by the Hoover Dam (however most of the casinos do not use the water from Lake Mead, but from their own aquifers). Currently, Lake Mead is 80 feet below it’s normal level from 10 years of drought. 

No doubt being on constant drought watch would explain why, according to a recent study by Yahoo Finance, Las Vegas is now the wisest water smart city in the country.

Major hotels, like the MGM Grand, have begun installing low flow toilets and shower heads are in every guest room, with drought-resistant landscaping and smart water features outside. And at the Bellagio, those majestic fountains spray well water instead of tapping into the city’s fragile drinking supply.

One of the most innovative and well publicized conservation programs in the Las Vegas Valley promotes the removal of turf - thousands of homeowners  are realizing that having a lush lawn in the middle of the desert is probably not the most sustainable way to live.

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Las Vegas natural landscaping. Photo courtesy of Green Care Las Vegas

According to Doug Bennet of the South Nevada Water authority, “the principal thing we are doing is asking people to change their landscaping. So more than 40,000 properties in the valley have converted their lawns to other types of ornamental landscaping, like desert landscaping. That is saving us 8.5 billion gallons of water a year.”

All of these water conservation efforts have not stopped the Southern Nevada Water Authority from applying for water rights in several basins in Nevada and the Snake Valley in Utah as part of a plan to send water to Las Vegas through a 285-mile long pipeline.

Opponents of the pipeline say it is time city leaders developed plans for sustainable communities that recognize a hotter climate and dwindling water supplies.

This is probably something you won’t be thinking about when you are partying until 4am and lying poolside, but definitely gives you a greater appreciation for Vancouver’s rainy climate (maybe).

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Venice or Vegas? Me (right) and my friend posing in front of the “canals” at the Venetian Hotel.

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