Most of you have no doubt been following the severe, extreme, and exceptional drought conditions across the West, Midwest, and Northeast. Yes, even the Northeast. Massachusetts has had nearly 100 wildfires in August and some areas of the Northeast are under extreme drought conditions. Most of the focus has been on the West and justifiably so. The water level of Lake Mead has dropped by 60 feet since 2020 to 1,040 feet. The lake is now in shortage condition two. Hoover Dam will cease generating electricity when the water level falls below 950 feet. That is in about three years if the current drought continues at its current pace. Thanks to a water intake tunnel at the elevation of 860 feet, put into operation in 2015, Las Vegas can continue to draw its drinking water from the lake for about six more years—again if the current drought continues at its current pace.
You can bet every impacted hotel owner is watching the situation closely and doing what it can to reduce water consumption. In its most recent Social Impact & Sustainability Report, for example, MGM Resorts International has a 2025 goal of reducing its water used per square foot by 33 percent (2007 baseline).
“To reduce consumptive use to date, our focus has been on converting real grass to drought tolerant landscaping and have nearly completed that effort with over 200,000 feet converted so far,” MGM says in its report. From 2007 to 2019, MGM Resorts avoided the use of 5 billion gallons of water thanks to its efforts.
In its 2021 Environmental Social and Governance Report, Sands reported a goal of a 3 percent reduction in water use per square foot from a 2019 baseline.
The Orleans, a Las Vegas hotel, was recently featured on FOX5 in Las Vegas for its water conservation efforts. Vice president of Communications David Strow told FOX5 it’s a combination of a lot of things. One of the biggest contributors to saving water at the property has been rethinking the layout of the hotel, removing turf, and running a more effective HVAC system for air conditioning.
Department of the Interior Taking This Seriously
About two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced urgent action to improve and protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River System, including commitments for continued engagement with impacted states and Tribes. The Bureau of Reclamation also released the Colorado River Basin August 2022 24-Month Study, which sets the annual operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead in 2023 considering critically low reservoir conditions.
The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes $4 billion in funding specifically for water management and conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other areas experiencing similar levels of drought.
“The worsening drought crisis impacting the Colorado River Basin is driven by the effects of climate change, including extreme heat and low precipitation. In turn, severe drought conditions exacerbate wildfire risk and ecosystems disruption, increasing the stress on communities and our landscapes,” said Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau.
Said the U.S. Department of the Interior in its announcement, “Given the 23-year ongoing historic drought and low runoff conditions in the Colorado River Basin, downstream releases from Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams—which created Lakes Powell and Mead—will be reduced again in 2023 due to declining reservoir levels. In the Lower Basin, the reductions represent the second year of additional shortage declarations, demonstrating the severity of the drought and critically low reservoir conditions.
As a result of the current lake and drought conditions, Nevada will lose 8 percent of its Lake Mead water apportionment in 2023. Arizona will lose 21 percent of its apportionment, and California will lose none.
Will We See Fees for Water Consumption?
It has been great to see the recent water conservation progress of the large gaming companies in Nevada. It will be interesting to see how the hotel industry in Nevada and Arizona responds to this latest tightening of the tap. At what point will guests be inconvenienced? How much longer until we see fees for water consumption?
The good news here is that there is so much one can do to reduce water consumption and recycle used water. Green Lodging News has dedicated an entire section of its site to water conservation and its reuse. There are currently more than 1,000 articles there. And, as one conserves water, one also reduces one’s carbon footprint.
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