LAS VEGAS(AP) -- Southern Nevada's chief water administrator traveled to Utah to tell water conservationists that Las Vegas has mended its water wasting ways.
Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said Las Vegas has come a long way in the past decade, despite its reputation as a city that wastes water by filling fake lakes and lavish casino fountains.
``Back in 1989, we didn't have our act together,'' Mulroy told delegates to the Utah Water Conservation Forum in St. George. ``But we have made a great turnaround. I'm very proud of what the community in Southern Nevada has been able to achieve.''
The theme of the third annual forum, a gathering of water providers, environmental groups and private industry representatives from around Utah, was ``Using Water Wisely for Utah's Blooming Desert.''
Along with Mulroy, the organization sought advice from Phoenix and even usually-wet Seattle, where drought years create more serious problems than outsiders might suppose. Mulroy told delegates Las Vegas probably deserved its rotten reputation for wasting water during the late 1980s.
``Our battle cry then was we had better use our Colorado River water before California takes it,'' she said. ``We had no conservation plans in place.'' Then, in 1989, ``our world exploded'' when estimates found the Las Vegas Valley could run out of water in the middle of the next decade unless something changed.
Mulroy described the formation of the Water Authority, which allowed the valley's water agencies to pool resources and work on a regional conservation plan. While bragging on its success, Mulroy admitted none of it would have happened had the valley not faced an imminent crisis.
She said one of the biggest challenges that faced Las Vegas was its urban nature. No surrounding farmland existed that could be converted to other uses to free large amounts of water.
That meant strict conservation -- turf restrictions, limits on when lawns could be watered, public outreach campaigns -- and a system of pricing water that hit water wasters hard in the pocketbook.
Forum delegates pressed Mulroy for details about the Water Authority's tiered pricing structure, which boosts water rates ever higher as use climbs. Gasps could be heard when Mulroy talked about the handful of residential users who consumed enough water during the summer months to produce $900 water bills.
Mulroy said convincing people outside Las Vegas that conservation has worked still requires effort.
``Las Vegas makes a great villain,'' she said. ``Everyone still thinks about the fountain in front of The Mirage. I've told The Mirage folks I should be on retainer for the number of times I've had to defend that fountain.''
She also conceded work remained to reach the authority's goal of 25 percent conservation by 2010, a goal she said was written in stone. Last year the authority recorded 15 percent conservation.
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