Don’t misunderstand. The Nevada water shortage is not just about Nevada. In fact, the drought in the western United States is having a profound effect on a total of seven states… especially California. But for the purposed of gambling news, we’re focusing on what this means for Las Vegas.
In addition to Nevada and California, the states involved include Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and even Wyoming. Tomorrow, August 16th, is the deadline for all seven states involved to have plans in place to cut water consumption. That’s easier said than done, of course. And nearly impossible for all the states to agree on the best course of action.
Potential solutions are not pleasant, and so the states will probably not meet the deadline. A water policy professor at the University of New Mexico, John Fleck, recently said that all of the possible solutions involve a degree of risk, and that there really are just “all bad options” at this point .
It’s not as if no one saw a Nevada water shortage coming. In addition to a drought that has stretched over two decades, states have been pulling more water out of the Colorado River than it could sustain for quite a while. Changes to the climate have also taken a toll on water volume in the river, reducing the supply by about 20%. And experts predict another 10% drop could be on the horizon.
Now, the Federal Government may get involved. That could mean a variety of things, from simply curbing everyone’s water consumption across the board to cutting off entire cities. The Feds could even dictate how farmers use water. If that sounds far fetched, consider a 1963 Supreme Court decision where they held that the Department of Interior has a legal right to define what is “beneficial use” of the nations water. All water rights are based on that decision.
But before we get too far off topic, let’s contemplate just what a Nevada water shortage is going to mean for Las Vegas. After all, that’s why we’re here, right? As we discussed in a previous article, Nevada gets nearly all of it’s water from Lake Mead but only 20% of it’s electricity from Hoover Dam. So while we don’t have to worry about Sin City turning off the lights, it may become more difficult to flush a toilet or take a shower.
No matter what happens tomorrow and moving forward, one thing is clear: The crisis is real, and time is not on our side. If the states cannot cut water for themselves, it will be cut for them. But at this point, even that may not be enough for an oasis in the desert.