U.S. Water News Online
SPARKS, Nev. -- The water that fuels glitzy megaresorts and
lush green golf courses in Las Vegas provides a greater economic
return than that used to grow crops in California's Imperial Valley,
a Vegas-area leader told a water conference here.
Drop for drop, the water used for tourism and gambling in Las
Vegas is one of the most efficient uses of a precious Western
resource that generates billions of dollars for Nevada coffers, said
Richard Holmes, assistant Clark County manager.
``Our use of water for the primary industry in southern Nevada --
gaming -- is probably several hundred times the value per acre foot
than ... you'll find in Imperial Valley,'' he said in a speech to an
annual meeting of the Nevada Water Resource Association.
Rural and urban interests were joining together at the conference
in Sparks to discuss a variety of water-related issues, from
economics and conservation, to water quality, planning and
Not everyone agrees with the priority Holmes' placed on the needs
of urban growth over farmers dependent on agricultural irrigation.
``Are we going to get our food from Third World countries so we
can support golf courses and slot machines?'' asked Jim Shaw of
Yerington, federal water master for the Walker River.
The Walker River begins in California's eastern Sierra and drains
into northern Nevada's Walker Lake. Most of its water is diverted for
Afterward, Holmes said he didn't mean to imply that farms and
ranches should be replaced by high-rises and slot machines to make
better use of water. He also suggested that those who reap bigger
economic gains through its use should help improve water systems as a
whole to benefit all users.
Holmes said 77 percent of the water used in Southern Nevada comes
from the Colorado River, a source that also supplies water to six
Nevada's share is least among the states, receiving an annual
allotment of 300,000 acre feet. An acre foot is about 326,000
gallons, or enough water for a family of five for a year. Arizona
receives 2.85 million acre feet, while California gets 4.4 million
Unlike the other states along the river system, most of Nevada's
take supports residential and service industries, as opposed to
Las Vegas hotel-casinos account for about 7 percent of southern
Nevada's total water use, Holmes said.
``With that 7 percent of the water, we think it's probably one of
the most profitable things you can do with water in the Colorado
Basin,'' Holmes said. ``We've got probably over $100,000 per acre
foot of earnings in any of our casinos.''
Holmes said in 2000, Clark County used 480,000 acre feet of water,
compared with 2.9 million gallons used in Imperial County, Calif.
The revenue generated by Clark County's main industry during that
time -- gambling -- outpaced that of Imperial County's agricultural
by more than seven-to-one, Holmes said.
The disparity of the economic gains for the counties was even
greater, $9.6 billion compared to $144 million, he said.
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