LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Few things are more top of mind for Nevadans than water. With a shrinking supply and more federal demands for cutbacks, 13 Investigates continues to look at who's using the most water in our Valley at a time where we're all being urged to conserve.
We collected data from the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Henderson and North Las Vegas for both commercial and residential properties. We begin our series of stories tonight with which businesses are using the most water. And we noticed one big change from last year.
The most recent available data is from 2021. We'll compare that to 2020, a pandemic year when golf courses used the most water in Las Vegas. In 2021, that changed with casino properties taking over the top spots.
"We're at a point where every single drop matters," says Kyle Roerink, Executive Director of the Great Basin Water Network.
"There's there's a lot of value in reporting on this list, because across the West, across the nation, we need to have a conversation about how we're pricing water and how we're using water, especially for aesthetic purposes," says Roerink.
The Venetian is the biggest Las Vegas Valley Water District commercial user. It went from the number four spot in 2020 to number one in 2021, an increase of more than 78 million gallons.
Mandalay is number two, followed by Caesars Palace. Its water use went up more than 200 million gallons year to year.
Wynn holds the number four spot. Angel Park Golf Club rounds out the top five.
"There was a bit of an anomaly during the pandemic where visitorship dropped down," says Bronson Mack with Las Vegas Valley Water District. "So water use within the resort sector also declined a little bit. That's likely the cause for why we saw that switch of golf courses coming up to the top of the list. However, as we've seen, visitation increased. Now you've got those resorts coming back over to the to the top of the list."
Angel Park and the other golf clubs that topped the list in 2020 all used less water in 2021.
"Golf courses were early adopters of our Water Smart Landscape program," says Mack. "They have removed approximately 900 acres of grass from their courses. That has helped them to better manage their water resources."
In North Las Vegas, Aliante Golf Club is number one, followed by Shadow Creek--an exclusive golf course owned by MGM Resorts.
NVEnergy's generating plant on Alexander Road rounds out the top three in North Las Vegas.
And we've saved the worst for last. The biggest commercial water user in 2021 and 2020 is Lake Las Vegas in Henderson.
They used more than 1.3 billion gallons of water last year. That's 126.7 million more than the year before.
"What purpose does does Lake Las Vegas really serve? asks Roerink. "You know, largely it's for aesthetics. It's for, you know, a very bourgeois community, a very upper crust community. And, you know, as we all see Lake Mead crashing and you see the stability at a place like Lake Las Vegas, you have to wonder if there are two different sets of rules for folks."
THE CITY OF HENDERSON provided the following information:
City of Henderson has a series of agreements that address water provision to Lake Las Vegas that span decades. Basically, Lake Las Vegas is allowed to purchase up to 7,000 acre feet per year of raw water (untreated water directly from Lake Mead) and a portion of that lake water is earmarked for irrigation at Lake Las Vegas golf courses.
The city stopped supplying raw water to Lake Las Vegas on July 1, when Lake Mead dropped below an elevation at which the Basic Water Co. intake could pump water. Lake Las Vegas was aware of this likelihood and put additional raw water in the lake before the Basic Water Co. intake ceased operations. City of Henderson, Lake Las Vegas and regional partners are assessing alternative temporary and permanent solutions to provide water while serving the greater good of Henderson.
Lake Las Vegas additionally has a permit to capture 2,000 acre feet of stormwater annually. The recent monsoonal weather has resulted in Lake Las Vegas receiving approximately 1,400 acre feet of stormwater into the lake.
We also spoke to Cody Winterton, the master developer of Lake Las Vegas. He said they have one water meter there for seven commercial users. That includes includes two golf courses, four homeowners associations, and the lake itself.
He says they're focused on conservation and removing non-functional turf will be the first big step. He also noted that Lake Las Vegas has a storm water permit, allowing it to capture rain water to use in the community, and that's water they don't take from Lake Mead. They've captured 300 million gallons so far this year.