Fountains on the Las Vegas Strip could be banned under a new proposal

Published on: August 26, 2022, 12:26 p.m.

Last updated: August 26, 2022, 12:37 p.m.

The government body that oversees Las Vegas’ water supply said it is “considering” banning all new fountains and man-made lakes on the Las Vegas Strip and elsewhere in the region. The ban, if voted on by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Board of Directors, could go into effect as early as October 2022.

Bellagio fountains
The Bellagio fountains entertain millions of Las Vegas Strip visitors a year for free. They draw from a surrounding lake that holds 22 million gallons of water. Most of this water comes from the resort’s private wells. However, 12 million gallons evaporate each year, which is a concern for water conservationists. (Image: elitetravel.com)

SNWA said its board will vote on its well ban and other proposals whenever the current public comment period ends.

The other proposals include reducing water allocations for Las Vegas golf courses by one-third starting in 2024. Currently, golf courses are limited to 6.3 acre-feet of water per irrigated acre annually. The new proposal would reduce that allotment to 4 acre feet. An acre-foot of water is 325,900 gallons, or enough to supply two families of four for one year.

All existing water features will be granted by proposal. This means the Bellagio fountains are safe from the ban. Any new interior water features on the Strip would also be permitted under the proposal.

In addition, the water features at Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas have an additional layer of immunity from future water bans. They draw part of their water supply from groundwater pumped from their own wells. This water is not regulated by SNWA or its local member agency, the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD).

Consequences for the best water users

A flyer recently distributed by SNWA threatened to target Las Vegas’ biggest water users with “water rate actions in response to unprecedented conditions.” Overage charges could be levied as early as January 2023.

The top 10 commercial water users in the LVVWD in 2021 were:

  1. The Venetian
  2. Mandalay Bay
  3. Caesars Palace
  4. Wynn Las Vegas
  5. Angel Park Golf Club
  6. Red Rock Golf Club
  7. MGM Grand
  8. Southern Highlands Golf Club
  9. cosmopolitan
  10. Summerlin Council

Bellagio squeaked by at number 11.

The restrictions follow cuts ordered by the Fed

The proposed restrictions follow the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s recent announcement that Nevada’s allocation of water from the Colorado River — at 300,000 acre-feet is the smallest of all seven states that use it — will be cut by 8 percent next year. That would mean an allocation of 276,000 acre-feet of water in 2023.

The good news is that in 2021, Nevada only used 242,000 acre feet. Southern Nevada’s water use fell 26 percent between 2002 and 2021, according to the LVVWD, despite 750,000 new residents and nearly 40 million annual visitors.

However, Nevada has committed to reducing its acreage by 25,000 acre feet next year.

Three years of intense drought and two decades of long-term drought have severely reduced the Colorado River’s water supply, which is distributed through Lake Mead to 40 million people in the West and supports $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity.

Southern Nevada currently gets 90 percent of its water from Lake Mead, which is now only 27 percent full. The remaining 10% comes from underground water.

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