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LAS VEGAS — Water consumption around Las Vegas is down nearly 4 percent through the first 10 months of this year compared to last year, according to the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
Through October, the water district has sold roughly 4 billion gallons less water than it had by the same time last year. It is the largest such year-to-year decline for the water district in recent memory.
Officials pointed to several possible reasons for the decline, including conservation efforts, a recent water rate increase and the economic slump that may have consumers tightening their belts. Another one certain cause is a drop in Clark County's population.
After years of steady growth, the number of people living in the Las Vegas-area actually fell by more than 10,000 people over the past year, according to the county demographer. The county's official estimate, adopted last week by the Southern Nevada Planning Coalition, shows a population of 1,986,146 as of July 1. That's down 10,396 from last year's estimate of 1,996,542.
Other experts argue population growth has leveled out, but not reversed.
The water district's numbers seem to bear that out. Though Nevada's largest water utility has sold less water over last year, it continues to add new customers, albeit at a slower rate.
The utility now serves 340,096 residential and commercial customers in Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County, up 2,112, or about six-tenths of a percent, since the beginning of the year.
The district's customer base grew by 2.5 percent in 2007, 4.9 percent in 2006 and 5.7 percent in 2005.
“We could see this coming. All the ingredients were there for a reduction in water sales,” said J.C. Davis, spokesman for the water district.
It's impossible to know which factor — population, conservation, higher rates, or the economy overall — has played the biggest part in reducing water use, Davis said.
This marks the fourth time since 2003 that the water district has added customers but sold less water than the previous year.
From 2002 to 2007, the valley cut its consumptive use of Colorado River water by some 15 billion gallons a year.
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