Las Vegas, USA is located in the Mojave desert and home to 650,000 people. The city is constantly facing water scarcity, which is worsened by climate change. For example, temperatures are more extreme and the water cycle is accelerating.
In 2012, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography declared a 50% likelihood of Lake Mead — the reservoir and water source next to Las Vegas — going (functionally) dry by 2021 if nothing was done to reduce water use. In 2022, Mead reached an historically low level due to droughts and overallocation.
Mead is not yet dry, but the city needs to reduce demand. An average household consumes around 0,83 m3 of water daily (220 gallons/HH). This number is high, but it’s better than before. Brelsford and Abbott report that water consumption per capita declined by 55% between 1996 and 2007, while population increased 63%. This fall in per capita use is attributed to water-efficient appliances in new houses, smaller lots (thus landscaping), and conservation policies (raising prices and fines) attempting to change people’s behaviour.
Bottom Line: Las Vegas tries to limit its water demand, but its dependence on an unsustainable source and vulnerability to climate change puts its future survival at risk.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂