LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Nevada is in the throes of an epic water crisis, so much so that the Feds have issued a water shortage declaration.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation most recent predictions show there's a 22% chance Lake Mead's level could drop below 1,025 feet in 2023. And a 12% chance it could drop to less than 1000 feet in 2024, putting power generation at risk. Lake Mead is currently at 1,067 feet.
Many people are cutting back, but there is still a lot of water being used for a lot of different reasons.
13 Investigators shows us the top water users from 2020 through the first half of 2021 and asks them what they're doing to help reduce that. (See lists for 2021 following this article)
We wanted to question the top users. None would go on camera and some didn't even respond. But they're just part of the water puzzle.
We collected data from the Las Vegas Valley Water District, North Las Vegas and Henderson, looking at commercial and residential water use to see if the highest users continued their record consumption.
Nearly all of our indoor water is treated and returned to Lake Mead.
"The water that we use outdoors is the water that we only use once," says Bronson Mack with the Southern Nevada Water Authority. "That's really the water that we consume as a community."
The bathtub ring around Lake Mead is perhaps the starkest reminder of how much water our community has lost.
But there's another lake that has no ring. And it's the biggest commercial water user of all. Lake Las Vegas in Henderson used 1,216,092,000 (1.2 billion) gallons in 2020. And through June this year, they've already used 417,334,000 gallons.
For perspective, it takes 1,320,000 gallons to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Henderson officials tell us raw water is taken directly from Lake Mead to replenish Lake Las Vegas.
Using less than half the water of Lake Las Vegas, but still in the top tier, "You do have golf courses on that list," says Mack.
To keep courses green in 2020, Angel Park used 436,789,999 gallons, Red Rock: 422,565,000 gallons, Southern Highlands: 407,297,000 gallons.
But golf courses used to use much more.
"Golf courses in Southern Nevada have removed the equivalent of nine professional golf courses just by taking grass out of the non-playing areas," says Mack.
Big properties on the Strip are next on the list; the Venetian, famously surrounded by water like its Italian city namesake, used 403,397,000 gallons in 2020.
Wynn: 383,808,000 gallons. Caesars: 369,604,000. Mandalay Bay: 360,539,000.
Rounding out the top commercial users is the Summerlin Council with 342,420,000.
"Part of this revolves around the fact that this is a huge master plan: 22,500 acres, we've got 115,000 residents so far," says Tom Warden, senior vice president of community & government relations at Summerlin.
That's the size of a small city.
"So, if you think of Summerlin as a city," Warden explains. "Then of course you're going to have parks--which we have over 250 parks--and that's about 465 acres of park setting like this we're standing in here and that's going to use a lot of water."
Before we tap into the top residential water users, we did not include data about Clark County School District's water use or cities that maintain many municipal parks. From the massive Sunset Park, which includes a lake, to tiny neighborhood parks, multi-purpose athletic fields, dog parks and splash pads, those are all considered public use and are for the greater good of the community.
Drilling down to water use where you live, we found many homeowner associations on topwater user lists.
Apartment complexes are naturally also big water users as that often includes tenant indoor use, which can be lumped into one big account.
When it comes to single-family residences, the average home uses about 125,000 gallons in a year, but it's the multi-million-dollar mansions soaking up millions of gallons of water.
"Anybody that is using more than a million gallons of water a year, I would consider that to be excessive," says Mack.
A property in Spanish Trails used over 12,327,000 gallons in 2020. It's at the same pace this year, using 6,380,000 by the end of June. The mansion sits on 15.9 acres and federal court records tie the estate to a Prince of Brunei. Common lot sizes in Las Vegas run between 1/10th to 1/6th of an acre, meaning up to 160 typical houses could fit here.
The property management company declined to comment on water use, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
But the Las Vegas Valley Water District says, thanks to past participation in the water-smart program, "That property has removed more than 70,000 square feet of grass," says Mack. That cut water use by five million gallons.
A mansion belonging to the late Sheldon Adelson in Summerlin's exclusive TPC golf course community used 11,268,000 gallons in 2020 - 5,321,000 in the first half of this year. The Adelson family declined to comment through a spokesperson.
Using just over 10,019,000 gallons is a Henderson water customer at the Rio Secco Golf Club on 11.45 acres. The homeowner is listed as Via Tivoli LLC. So far this year, the home has used 3,876,000 so they may have made water-saving changes.
Sources tell us the home belongs to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. We left multiple messages with his foundation's media team but never got a response.
Station Casinos owner Lorenzo Fertitta's house at TPC used over 9,659,000 gallons on a 2.14-acre lot last year - 4.3 million so far this year. No one would talk to us on camera, but a spokesperson for the Fertitta family says the property is in the process of making changes to conserve water.
Back in Henderson, the fifth-highest water user of single-family homes belongs to the Koroghli family which owns the Oasis Windmill RV Park, the New Pioneer in Laughlin and various other companies. They used 8,804,000 gallons in 2020 on a 2.57-acre property. And they're on pace this year with 4,121,000 gallons used in the first six months.
But the officials say they've already made water-saving changes. "They have removed about 9,000 square feet of grass," says Mack.
Looking at the bigger picture, the water used by all 100 top residential users in the Las Vegas Valley Water District adds up to about 270-million gallons.
For perspective, "Their water use in comparison with all of the water use throughout the valley is equal to less than one percent," says Mack. "So that is why conservation is important for everybody to be involved in."
Some of the valley's biggest HOAs are already making big changes that will translate into big savings in water use. That story will be available Tuesday on Good Morning Las Vegas.