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Responding To Retired Geezer, Part 1 February 4, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Home.

Mr. Geezer has been busy in my comments lately and he’s brought up a couple things that I thought I should respond to in as posts rather than in comments.  Why?  Because he brought up some interesting subjects that make for good blog posts.

First off his response to my “Work Blahgging” post:

“I have the solution:

Dude, you live in the desert.
Eliminate 3/4 of the golf courses and you will have enough water for people.


I was vague about where I work in the actual post, but RG knows, and I’ve disclosed elsewhere and here that I work for the local water utility in the Las Vegas area*.  Regionally speaking, we have a couple big-time water issues that we have to deal with: the existing long-term drought on the Colorado River system, and bunches of new people moving to the area with considerably fewer people moving out.

We’re coming up on a big water-crunch in the not-too-distant future, unless something changes.  RG’s suggestion that we “Eliminate 3/4 golf courses” wouldn’t have the impact he (and many others) thinks it would.  Nor would “cracking down” on the big resort casino properties.  To the general public perception, Golf Courses and Casinos ARE the Evil Twins of Water Hogging and Wasting (Evildum & Evildee).  The real fact is that they rate among the most efficient water users in town.

Golf courses actually only use 7.9% of the water delivered, casinos another 7%.  It’s the single family residence sector that actually has the VAST demand of the water in the region at 42.9%.  Here’s the kicker – the VAST majority of the water used at the typical single family residence is used outside.  Here’s the kicker to the kicker – a HUGE percentage of the water used outside in single family homes is utterly wasted through general over-irrigaion due to extremely typical extremely inefficient irrigation system design and management.

Still, a sector that consumes nearly 8% of our potable water supply isn’t insignificant.  Some years ago we looked into ways to make the golf course industry more efficient.  We discovered that we were veryLate to the Game.  Consider – the highest overhead cost any golf course operating in the Las Vegas area is the water bill.  Golf course managers are The Masters of efficient turf irrigation. 

And even if we managed to pass laws (yeah, right) that eliminated most golf courses from the region, what do you suppose would replace them?  Parks? No, that doesn’t help.  Allowed to go back to the great dusty desert from whence they sprang?  Snork! If you believe that then I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.  No, a developer would take over the area and put up housing tracts and whatnot.  Sure, considerably less grass, but what grass there is, is now in the hands of those who are the least efficient in its management.  Water savings would be minimal, if at all I’d suspect. 

Hmm.  That would be an interesting little research project wouldn’t it?  Take the area of a golf course, map that area on nearby neighborhoods (the kind of houses that would match what’s already there) and then sum up their water use vs. what the golf course uses.  It’s not quite that straightforward, though – I’d have to account for return flow credits for indoor use, but certainly do-able.  When I’ve got some spare time I’ll take a quick run at the numbers and let y’all know the results!

In any case – the elimination of most, or all golf courses isn’t the water resource silver bullet a lot of people think it is.

Next up – Mac vs. PC!!  This time it’s for real.


The indefenestrable Dave In Texas weighs in:  “Until you deal with the rate of growth you’re pissing in the wind. LV is going to need a lot more water. A lot.”

Ah, yes “Growth”!  That is of course the third Evil Twin.  Triplet.  Whatever.  “Evildoo” shall be this bane’s name.  It’s certainly an issue – everybody wants to come here!  And they do.  Then they lose all their money in the casinos, and then can’t afford to move away.  Just kidding.  Seriously, though – Las Vegas and environs have been among the fastest growing areas in the country for many years.  It started gathering steam in the late ’80’s, exploded in the ’90’s and hasn’t slowed down much since. 

And it hasn’t just been housing and whatnot – they keep building gigantic casino-palaces, each one bigger than the last.  Every time I think we must be hitting some market saturation point, they announce plans for the next one.  Now MGM and whoever it was that took over Stardust are basically building small city complexes of their own on the Strip!  Amazing.  Ah, but everything comes at a cost, no?  Yea, verily assorted chickens are coming home to roost, and the drought hastened their arrival.

Part of the problem is that during the early days this region wasn’t using all that much of its Colorado River allocation.  Growth was encouraged without reservation and it paid off like nobody dreamed.  Particularly during the recent recessive periods, as our local economy remained pretty strong in comparison to most of the rest of the nation.  The Construction industry is now the second most powerful economic force in the valley just after the GamblingGaming industry.  Evildoo is now VERY strong and you can not simply flip a switch and turn him off.  Not without inflicting serious damage to the local economy at any rate.  And yet Something.Must.Be.Done.  If we do nothing we will simply smash into a wall where all new construction simply stops.  We have to slow it down, yes – but do it carefully.  Tapping the brakes – not slamming on them.  This is a long-term strategy that will require several years and many miles of track.  We absolutely will have to obtain new sources of water above and beyond what we have now and what we can achieve through conservation and increased efficiency.

We have A Plan.  Trust us.  We’re the Government.  What could go wrong?



1. Retired Geezer - February 4, 2007

Good post, Enas. I know the numbers show that the golf courses aren’t the water wasters that most people think they are but it still bugs me to see all that grass that only really benefits a fortunate few. Aren’t there over 50 golf courses in Vegas now?

I used to play golf all the time until it got too spendy to play. I’ve played at the Municipal course on Decatur, the Tropicana course (where the MGM now stands), the Dunes course (where Mandalay Bay is now). I even had a courtesy membership (cause I was a DJ) at Louis Prima’s course which was out by the Silverton casino. I enjoyed playing the 3-par course out in North Vegas too. Is that still there? Oh yeah, and the Craig Ranch course too… and Winterwood down in East Las Vegas.

I haven’t played since I moved up to Idaho but the urge comes to me every now and then.

I think Vegas courses really went after the money players.

You know what would help Vegas with their water crisis is what they do up here. They have ‘Pressurized Irrigation’ where they use non-potable water for watering lawns. Some communities have it built in, either from wells that don’t have to have the water treated or pumping directly out of the irrigation ditches.

Of course, some kid would ‘drink’ the untreated water and get diarreah and they would ban it.

2. daveintexas - February 5, 2007

Until you deal with the rate of growth you’re pissing in the wind. LV is going to need a lot more water. A lot.

3. Enas Yorl - February 5, 2007

Yeah, I don’t know the total number, but around 50 seems right. As for the high end ones – well, gotta keep the riff-raff out somehow!
😀 As for cost – there are still plenty of reasonable places to play. Craig Ranch is still here, but destined to become a park in the near future I think.

As for your other suggestion, that won’t work here. All the usable groundwater in the valley is accounted for. The Water District pumps groundwater during the summer months to meet our high demand periods, and then recharges the groundwater system with treated river water through all the rest of the months. We do have some golf courses on local recycled water, but it’s more of a power saving measure rather than a water saving one. It doesn’t really add anything to our water resource picture.

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