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Las Vegas: A Desert in Search of OasisApril 13, 2009 By: Mark Rogers Travel Agent
Lake Mead provides Las Vegas with 90 percent of its drinking water - and may run dry by 2021
Las Vegas knows it has to go green. It’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert, it’s experienced phenomenal growth (some might describe it as unchecked) and it’s now spinning its wheels in the deep sand of an unprecedented economic downturn.
A study on the city commissioned by CERES Corp., an agribusiness and food industry consulting firm, states: “It is increasingly clear that the era of cheap and easy access to water is ending, posing a potentially greater threat to businesses than the loss of any other natural resource, including fossil fuel resources. This is because there are various alternatives for oil, but for many industrial processes, and for human survival itself, there is no substitute for water.”
Las Vegas receives 90 percent of its drinking water from Lake Mead, which is fed from the streams of the Rocky Mountains. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has published a study that puts the odds at 50 percent that Lake Mead, which measures 247 square miles, will drop too low for power production by the year 2017 and run completely dry by 2021. When you’re trying to preserve the environment, this is like being dealt aces and eights—otherwise known as a dead man’s hand.
Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is on record as supporting the construction of desalinization plants on the Pacific Coast to convert ocean water into fresh drinking water. The Sierra Club, however, has warned that desalinization plants create large dead zones that wipe out the surrounding marine life. The Sierra Club also pointed out that even if the desalinization plants come into being, they would cause their own set of problems, since they’ll demand enormous amounts of electricity to operate.
Another controversial project is a $3.5 billion, 327-mile underground pipeline to tap aquifers beneath rural valleys northeast of Vegas. The pipeline is already under construction. Critics claim there’s no water to spare along the proposed route, and warn that if the pipeline draws too much water away and kills the 3-foot-tall shrubs known as greasewood, the region will be plagued by huge dust storms.
With all of the challenges Las Vegas faces in its attempts to go green, it’s inspiring to see newly constructed projects make a commitment to preserving the natural environment.
For instance, The Palazzo opened in late 2007 with LEED Silver certification, making the $1.9 billion resort one of the largest green buildings in the world (it has 3,066 suites with a standard size of 720 square feet).
According to The Palazzo, the property saves enough water to provide each Nevada citizen with 266 8-ounce glasses of water and enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 12,100 years. Additional eco-responsible details include heating swimming pools with solar panels and moisture sensors that monitor real-time, site-specific air temperature, humidity, rainfall and other factors to provide daily watering cycle adjustment. During construction, the building’s structural steel averaged 95 percent recycled content, while the concrete averaged a 26 percent recycled content rate.
The travel agent liaison at The Palazzo is Michael Larragueta, executive director of partnership marketing (702-414-4433).