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EDITORIAL: Boulder City water recycling is long overdue

The Water Police driving around the Las Vegas area looking for residential water waste should have spent more time in Boulder City.

Southern Nevada has water issues. Lake Mead’s bathtub ring is a miles-long visual reminder of the ongoing drought. There are restrictions in Clark County on watering and planting grass. There have been cuts to Nevada’s meager allocation from Lake Mead.

In July, the Clark County Commission voted to limit the size of pools at new single-family residences. New pools must be no bigger than about 600 square feet. Boulder City followed suit in August. The reasoning is that larger pools lose more water to evaporation. Water officials projected the new restrictions will save 3.2 million gallons of water a year.

That’s about what Boulder City lets evaporate in four or five days.

Throughout the Las Vegas Valley, most indoor water is returned to Lake Mead. This provides the Southern Nevada Water Authority with water credits. For every gallon returned, it earns the right to withdraw another gallon. This recycling system is why there is enough water for growth and development, but not grass. The reclaimed water extends the amount of the precious resource that is available to Southern Nevada. But the water used outside can’t be recycled. Much of it is lost after one use.

Water recycling has been common practice for decades, but not in Boulder City. There, used indoor water is treated lightly and mostly pumped into evaporation ponds. As the name suggests, that water is then lost. Last year, evaporation claimed 250 million gallons.

There’s no need for this. The water authority is willing to pay $26 million to build a pipeline to Henderson’s water treatment plant. That would allow Boulder City’s water to be returned to Lake Mead.

A second option would allow the city to use it for irrigation, reducing how much new water the city needs.

Fortunately, new Boulder City Mayor Joe Hardy and council members sound receptive to this plan.

“It’s a one-time fix that the SNWA will pay for and we would not have ongoing expenses,” Mr. Hardy said. He added, “It won’t be any skin off our nose to have the water go over the hill (to Henderson) and be used like all other water in the valley.”

This should have been done years ago, but that’s water under the figurative bridge. Boulder City officials shouldn’t waste any time implementing this plan.

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