19 Dec 2009

Las Vegas' (old) search for water

I came across this story recently:
Now Las Vegas is looking north to secure its future by harvesting water underneath vast, sparsely populated rural Nevada...The move by Las Vegas exemplifies the growing problem of the West, where cities are beginning to confront limits to growth, limits set by the shortage of water, a commodity as scarce in the West as sun, land and optimism are plentiful.

[snip]
By achieving 20 percent conservation and returning treated effluent to Lake Mead, Ms. Mulroy of the water district said the region could get to the year 2006 -- but no further -- if present projections for population growth hold true.
Full article here. I am posting this article not because it is new, but because it is from a 1991 NY Times article. Vegas' quest for more northern groundwater is much older than the current pipeline proposal, something I was ignorant of.

Also interesting is that Pat Mulroy claims that the region cannot proceed past 2006 without new imported water. Of course, she offers the caveat that she will be correct only if present projections hold true, but why do we bother to listen to these projections? They are frequently wrong (I like to check old water demand predictions), and so it is amazing how much attention they receive. Water demand is not a fixed amount per person - it changes based on price, weather, activities, household characteristics, etc. As scarcity increases, the situation changes, and people react.

Bottom Line:
My research has taught me more and more to learn the history before proceeding.