A house with a pool borders the desert on the edge of the Las Vegas Valley, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Henderson, Nev.
John Locher | AP
Nevada lawmakers are considering legislation that would give water managers the power to limit the amount of water available for residential use, a proposal that comes as worsening drought conditions and climate change have depleted Colorado River reservoirs.
The the proposed bill would make Nevada the first state to allow the water agency, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, to shut off water use to single-family homes that use more than half an acre-foot of water, or roughly 163,000 gallons, each year.
Officials with the water agency that serves the Las Vegas metropolitan area told state lawmakers this week that the measure would affect only the top 20% of Las Vegas water users. The average customer in the Las Vegas Valley uses 130,000 gallons per year.
The water management agency would not impose residential restrictions right away, but rather if drought conditions and water shortages in the Colorado River continue to worsen. The agency has not yet decided how it will enforce the proposed limits.
“It’s addressing those top 20% of customers who are using more water and haven’t made the changes necessary to protect water supplies in our communities,” said Southern Nevada Water Authority Public Service Director Andy Bellanger. he said natural resources assembly on Monday.
While the Colorado River has long been over-allocated, climate change has exacerbated drought conditions in the region while water levels in the nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have reached record lows.
Las Vegas depends on the Colorado River for 90% of its water supply. Nevada has already lost about 8% of its Colorado River stock due to federal government mandated cuts.
Nevada has implemented some of the strictest conservation policies in the region, including laws that ban ornamental grass and limit the size of new pools in the Las Vegas area.
Seven states that draw from the Colorado River no agreement has yet been reached on voluntary reduction of water consumption. Six states have jointly submitted a proposal that outlines ways to reduce water use, while California, the biggest user of the Colorado River, has issued a separate plan.
Failure to reach an agreement could lead to further federal government cuts. The Biden administration called on states in the Colorado Basin to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water, or up to a third of the river’s average flow.