Local NewsDrought Crisis

Actions

Is working from home making Nevada's water issues worse?

Work From Home
Posted at 1:37 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 03:09:43-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A recent UNLV study finds that working from home might be making Nevada's water issues worse.

When society took a dramatic shift to remote work during the pandemic, Las Vegas water use soared - making matters worse for the already drought-stricken valley.

MORE ON THE DROUGHT CRISIS

More washing of hands and staying in the house increased Las Vegas water usage to more than pre-pandemic residential, commercial and school use combined.

With the future of the pandemic uncertain, researchers worry that increased hybrid or complete work from home situations will put a strain on Nevada's already feeble water supply.

Co-author of the study Dr. Nicholas Irwin, who is a UNLV economics professor explained: "We welcome more people coming in for our economy and enriching our economy and diversifying the Greater Las Vegas area. However, if they come in with the water usage they are used to, especially back east where I’m from where water is plentiful and we never have to worry about it, that’s where we could run into trouble."

The study used Henderson Water District data from 2017 through September 2020.

The findings were astounding.

"A month after that stay-at-home order was declared, residents were using 12% more water than what we would’ve expected based on the previous usage. That second month we up 26% and 24% more in that 3rd month. Then we hit 36% more that 4th month," noted Dr. Irwin

About 90% of the Las Vegas valley water comes from the Colorado River. When water was divided up between states in 1922, Nevada was given about 98 billion gallons per year, but that was when the population was around 80,000. That’s less than 3% of the state’s current population of 3.1 million.

"The reason it hasn’t been negotiated is because everyone else, other states, are really happy they get this big allocation. You would have to get all the states, plus Mexico to agree. Then it would have to be ratified by every state, plus Mexico, plus congress and the president," says Dr. Irwin

RELATED: First-ever federal water shortage declaration for the Colorado River

So in this case, researchers urged policymakers to put the growing population and more people working from home at the forefront of their water conservation decisions.

Working from home may speed up severe water restrictions if something isn’t done.

DAILY DEBRIEF: A DEEPER LOOK INTO THIS STORY

Daily Debrief: Water use up during the pandemic

Stay with 13 Action News for further updates on this story