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Keep ‘wet blankets’ out of water talks

“Blanket statements” are usually meant to cover wide swaths of a topic. A “wet blanket,” on the other hand, implies stifling everything it touches or, in this context, greatly limiting a topic’s discussion. If this column comes somewhere between one or the other, I’ll consider it a success.

When you reach the end of my latest missive, you may (more than likely) think, Ron has no clue what he’s talking about —on what he’s opining. For that reason, I will stipulate up front, you’re right! Perhaps my column’s appearance in the “Opinion” section is particularly apropos as these following thoughts are not based on scientific data, expertise of any kind; they are purely my opinions. So, before you feel compelled to send a letter to the editor claiming, “Mr. Russ hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about,” I agree with you.

With the above stipulation notwithstanding, I seriously doubt the underlying premise for my thoughts will find many naysayers. Boulder City and all of Southern Nevada are facing an existential water crisis. Talk about our amazing small town that does not include our water crisis seeks to totally ignore that 800-pound gorilla not only in the room but seated at our table.

Fact: Boulder City gets its water supplied by Lake Mead. The lake, in turn, is fed by the Colorado River, which has been subjected to its own dwindling supply thanks to at least 20 years of drought and an even longer history of politics. Upstream from Mead are a host of other users claiming dibs based on factors I clearly cannot fully appreciate.

All one needs to do to gain a visual perspective of our crisis is look at Mead and see the so-called “water ring,” where the water used to be versus where it is now. It’s shocking and disturbing, especially when you ponder what running out of water would mean for Boulder City.

The grotesquely overused phase “existential threat” applies perfectly to what losing Mead as our water source would truly mean. No water, no city. And with the lake at roughly one-quarter capacity, looking the other way won’t cut it. Some experts claim if Mead water reduction continues at the current pace, the lake could reach a dead pool classification as of 2025.

Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.

Clearly, the writing is already on the wall — the walls of the jagged mountains of Nevada and Arizona that form the natural basin of the Lake Mead reservoir.

Almost on cue, our City Council passed usage cutbacks into Boulder City water ordinances at its Aug. 23 meeting. Those changes are outlined at: www.bcnv.org/water and mostly take effect Sept. 15.

Meantime, upstream cutbacks are also coming, thanks to the fed’s mandatory reductions for lower basin users: Nevada, Arizona and Mexico.

Mexico? California faces zero cutbacks. Remember when I referred to politics? Sheesh!

OK, setting that aside, how can we the people cut back our usage, particularly here in Boulder City? When looking at Mead, one can only imagine how many showers would have to be skipped to do our individual part. No, big cuts are needed and needed stat.

Can people justify swimming pools and lush, green grass lawns? Depends on who you ask. Being a libertarian at heart, I believe you price unwanted behaviors such that they become just too expensive. Perhaps a multi-tiered rate system that addresses those who use substantially more precious water than is required for basic desert living. If you want to use more, pay more. A lot more! Then use the recovered upper-tiered rates paid toward conservation measures. We could also provide tax incentives to residents to convert from grass lawns to desert landscaping.

Then there’s the city maintaining multiple parks and recreational areas with grass. At the very least, we should only use reclaimed water. Artificial turf requires only the occasional hose-down, so that’s a possibility. Note: ordinance changes thankfully address some of these ideas.

Now, brace yourself —I’m ready to jump the shark — I’m going to ask questions particularly illustrative of my lack of practical knowledge on the subject. My curiosity is based on the fact that Mother Earth has no water shortage. The problem is the water is in the wrong place for our current inland location and our planet’s vast supply of water is, in its current form, undrinkable.

How do other desert inhabitants manage their water needs? In looking to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Dubai, they all use massive desalinization plants. The current world’s largest facility claims an output of 1 billion liters per day. That converts to 264 million gallons.

With Clark County’s current population at 2.4 million and suggested daily per capita water needs at 110 gallons, that’s 264 million gallons per day. What? A match?

I double-checked my numbers against the Ras Al Khair desalinization plant in Saudi Arabia. My math is actually a little conservative. That said, one must revisit my early point about the water being in the wrong place. To have a “desal” plant actually serve Southern Nevada, either sea water or treated fresh water would have to be piped at a distance of at least 265 miles. What I will not try to cover is the sticker shock associated with massive pipelines or a U.S. desalination plant trying to take the title of world’s largest.

Again — already stipulated — these ideas will likely be shot down by folks who know whereof they speak. Points of unanimity should include sensible conservation moves while considering big ideas for our future. But refusing to be the designated wet blanket, I cannot and will not entertain the idea that Boulder City and Las Vegas will one day completely run out of both their water supplies and their futures.

The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.

Ron Russ is a Los Angeles transplant, living in and loving Boulder City since 2020. His career in commercial broadcasting spanned more than four decades including a brief stint as the announcer for Fox’s short-lived “The Chevy Chase Show.” In another lifetime Ron performed stand-up comedy in Los Angeles. He can be reached at russbcr@outlook.com.

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