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Southern Nevada Water Authority

A call to conserve

With conditions worsening again on the Colorado River, communities throughout the Southwest are putting even greater emphasis on water conservation. In Southern Nevada, water efficiency is no longer a response to drought - it is a way of life. A combination of incentives, education, tiered rates and restrictions, coupled with one of the nationís most extensive water reuse programs, has helped residents pare their daily per-person water consumption to only 75 gallons. Even after factoring in all non-residential uses of water, such as businesses, resorts, schools, parks, and streetscapes, our communityís per capita water consumption is only 133 gallons per day after accounting for the capture and reuse of indoor water.

Meeting the challenge

Southern Nevadans have already made substantial strides in water efficiency. From 1990 to 2008, the community’s per capita water use declined by 28 percent, reaching the SNWA’s previous goal two years early. Buoyed by that success, the agency set another ambitious goal - to further reduce water use by another 20 percent by 2035.

Although it’s early in the race, the community is on track to meet that goal. One of the key factors driving down Southern Nevada’s water use is its extensive recycling of water. On average, about 40 percent is used indoors, while the remainder is generally consumed by landscaping and other outdoor uses.

Virtually all indoor water is captured, treated using state-of-the art systems to meet or surpass state and federal water quality standards, and returned to the Colorado River for "credits."

Southern Nevada's use of credits as a form of reuse, which is unique among major metropolitan areas along the river, has the effect of dramatically reducing our community’s consumptive use of the Colorado River.

Different approaches, same objective

Some environmental groups have advocated a single residential water use goal of 90 gallons per capita per day by the year 2020 for all Southwestern urban areas. Despite having already surpassed that goal by achieving a consumptive rate of 75 gallons per day, the SNWA, like other water agencies in the Southwest, believes that setting one standard conservation goal for everyone isnít the best approach.

From an analytical perspective, comparing water use in cities with dramatically different annual precipitation levels, temperature ranges, housing patterns and socioeconomic conditions - all of which significantly influence water consumption - is not a scientifically valid approach. This idea is further complicated by the lack of standardization in how different communities measure per capita water use.

Nonetheless, the SNWA supports efforts by environmental entities and others to encourage continued conservation on the Colorado River, which represents 90 percent of Southern Nevadaís municipal water supply.

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