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We deflect, not confront, water problems

More photo ops, more hand wringing, more florid speeches by officials, more federal money doled out without effect, more breast beating about hollow and inadequate efforts at water conservation regularly occur here and throughout the American West.

For a place built on indulgence and excess, greater Las Vegas can’t break its addiction to profligate water use. Unfortunately, there’s no addiction hotline for counseling and assistance.

Expecting others to make hard choices on how to match water use with water supply does not solve our existential water supply crisis. That’s the flawed leadership currently on display from seven states using the Colorado River. None of these positions or stall tactics create one more drop of usable water for those dependent upon the Colorado River while the river’s flow continues its constant decline during protracted drought. Legal water rights, be they senior or junior, matter little if there is no water to allocate.

Southern Nevada Water Authority claims 110 gallons of water use per person per day in their Southern Nevada service territory. California’s Monterey Peninsula reportedly uses 59. SNWA hopes to reduce its consumption to 86 in several years, but that target is still over 45 percent more than an area (Monterey Peninsula) without major aqueduct connections to sustain human life.

Boulder City has utterly failed to do its part toward conserving water. That reality has nothing to do with population. The recent plan to remove just over 5 percent of the ornamental turf, subsidized by water ratepayers and taxpayers, at the two city golf courses is laughably inconsequential.

Had previous officials been thinking strategically, the idea of a second city-operated golf course for 15,000 people would have been rejected for excessive water use and the fact that they are money-losing operations taxpayers heavily subsidize. The same applies to Cascata golf course’s water use.

Look around Boulder City at all the water-guzzling turf in parks, private lawns, in front of city buildings, on athletic fields and around our schools and ask yourself if we are doing all we can to conserve water while retaining our city’s quality of life. SNWA estimates 60 percent of water consumption is for irrigation lost forever. No need for a consultant to do this work of identifying and materially reducing the wasteful local water practices, but we have one anyway to provide cover for any uncomfortable recommendations.

The government body responsible for our water stewardship, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, consumes some 6 million gallons of water a year to irrigate its southern region headquarters in downtown Boulder City. The people in charge recently spent $600,000 on plans to perpetuate the turf, completely unconcerned with the conflicting optic of telling others to conserve while it indifferently consumes dwindling water.

Do Boulderites want decorative grass compatible with a climate receiving (more than) 40-inches of precipitation a year, or continue to drink, cook, bathe and launder at home? We can’t presume to do both given our water supply’s trajectory.

Boulder City’s irrigation staff can’t stop overwatering Wilbur/Bicentennial Park, operating sprinklers in the middle of hot, windy days on golf courses, watering the Parks and Recreation headquarters building grass midday, and allowing streams of water to flow down gutters from city facilities.

The Las Vegas Valley has overdrawn its once-abundant water aquifer for decades. The same can be said of the separate Pahrump Valley aquifer. Pahrump’s aquifer recklessly declines because of expansive vanity lawns, unlimited water well usage, golf courses, grape vineyards, rapid human development and alfalfa-growing operations with no alternative water supply.

Around Bunkerville, Logandale and the Moapa Valley expansive farmland requires liberal irrigation to grow alfalfa, a low-value crop for cattle feed. Why defy nature and grow alfalfa in a desert?

Why hasn’t SNWA worked with hospitality facilities to require low-flow water fixtures in each of the 150,000 plus hotel rooms, with an ongoing inspection program to stop fixture failures and leaks?

Why did SNWA and our local City Council recently perpetuate more swimming pool building? Are private swimming pools essential to human life or simply an ode to swimming pool contractors and maintenance companies?

SNWA’s braggadocio about its conservation efforts is a small fraction of what’s needed to match water supply and demand. SNWA’s choices target giving government new tax revenues from development, Realtors the developed properties to market, union construction workers jobs and construction companies business. How does that help a community that faces a dwindling, unstable water supply?

Nevadans can’t control what Arizona, California, etc. do or don’t do about water conservation. However, Nevada needs a far sounder future course than has been pursued over the protracted drought in the Colorado River Basin.

Ultimately, shouldn’t we ask and wisely answer the question: Do we want water for frivolous uses or to support human life? We need the security of stable water flow from Southern Nevada taps.

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.

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