Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Supply and Demand for Water in Las Vegas

As cities in the South West such as Las Vegas and Phoenix grow, water demand increases. Will there be a "water shortage"? Or, will prices adjust such that demanders engage in greater conservation? Will nearby farmers endowed with ample water substitute crops or economize on their water consumption so that they can sell their "excess" water to nearby urbanites?

What is the ecological impact caused by growing urban water demand in arid places? If these cities use their political clout (i.e more Congressional Representatives) to build new dams then the impact caused by growth could be large. However, if institutions permit trades across different water users, if initial property rights are well defined, and if water use is well monitored, then urban growth in arid places can be accomodated without an "ecological crisis".

December 11, 2005
Las Vegas Nearing Its Water Allotment From the Colorado
LAS VEGAS, Dec. 10 (AP) - The booming Las Vegas area's water demands could outstrip the region's share of the Colorado River by 2007, according to the 2006 water budget approved by the Southern Nevada Water Authority board this week.
Kay Brothers, the water authority's deputy general manager, called that timeline a worst-case situation, adding that through conservation and careful planning the state could stretch its share of the river water beyond 2007.
But Ms. Brothers acknowledged that the day was coming when southern Nevada would no longer be able to depend on its allotment from the river, which currently supplies 90 percent of the area's drinking water.
She said the annual budgets were based on separate projections from each of the authority's member agencies, projections that "tend to be conservative."
The water authority has had to come up with backup resources. The 2006 plan approved with the agency's budget on Thursday outlines some of those options. They include about 290,000 acre-feet of groundwater stored beneath the Las Vegas Valley, 30,000 acre-feet banked with California and an agreement with Arizona that guarantees Nevada 1.25 million acre-feet of water over the next 30 years.
There are 325,851 gallons in an acre-foot, which is nearly enough water to supply two Las Vegas households for one year.
The water authority already plans to build a $2 billion pipeline to pump groundwater from basins in rural Nevada. Officials also hope to use water from the Virgin and Muddy Rivers.
A 1922 compact and several later agreements divided use of the Colorado River among seven states. Efforts to change the deal have led to fights in the nation's courts.