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🗣️ "Should The Lawns In Vegas, Stay In Vegas?"

The Indicator from Planet Money

Photo by Sung Shin / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Hosts: Nate Hegyi & Darian Woods
Guest: Kyle Roerink | Director | Great Basin Water Network
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[0:24] NH: “[Lake Mead is] more than 100 miles long, hundreds of feet deep. And part of my job is to report on the growing water shortage in this area. Because let's face it, much of this region is a straight up hot as hell desert. […] And almost everyone in that desert gets their water from pretty much a single source. The Colorado River which is stretched thin these days.

[0:46] DW: “[Colorado] River is where Lake Mead gets all of its water. It's the critical water source for millions of people living in seven states in cities like Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas. But since the 1980s Lake Mead and the Colorado River are drying up.”

[3:13] KR: “When I think of water waste in Southern Nevada. I'm not thinking of you know, the tourists taking a shower at the Bellagio after they just watched you know the fountain spit up and down outside.”

[3:27] NH: “[Kyle] is thinking about everybody else that lives in Las Vegas. And it's not about the water they use that goes down the drain from showers or going to the bathroom. That's all actually cleaned up and recycled back into Lake Mead. What Roerink is actually worried about is all the water that's used outside on those green lawns or the golf courses or in gardens. That actually makes up about 60% of the water used in the city and it essentially evaporates.”

[4:09] NH: “The city has actually pushed regulations that reduce the amount of grass and newly built homes can have. So no front yard, only half the backyard is grass. But that said there are still a lot of existing lawns in Las Vegas. […] Political leaders are so hungry to help Las Vegas grow, that they're actually pushing federal legislation that would sell off tens of thousands of acres of undeveloped public land south of the city to build thousands of new homes for future residents.”

[4:49] NH: “Obviously Vegas isn't the only Western city that's growing. […] Phoenix is getting bigger, […] St. George, Utah is growing. They need more water and […] there's only so much water in the West these days. […] [It’s the tragedy of the commons]. If you have a shared resource, people will try to use as much of it as they can. They aren't necessarily bad actors, but they're just doing what's best for themselves.”

[5:36] KR: “That's what makes this really scary is like, are we setting up a situation in our country, where one community is more important than other?

[5:59] NH: “All seven Colorado River states each have a certain allocation of water they're allowed to take each year. And this year, for the first time ever due to the drought that allocation was actually limited. And Southern Nevada has already done a really good job of conserving water, for instance, Las Vegas has worked really, really hard to reduce consumption among its residents. And they actually chopped it in half over the past few decades by changing development rules, and actually paying people to remove lawns and creating these kinds of incentives. But much of the American West as a whole is still in love with its green lawns.”

[6:45] NH: “These regulations take political will and not all state or local governments are on the same page. For instance, there's this one small town, Oakley, Utah, they're actually imposing a construction moratorium on new homes that would connect to the city's water supply because they just don't have enough water. But in the same state, you've got St. George, Utah, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and they want to actually build a pipeline to suck more water from the Colorado River.”

[7:13] DW: “It's complicated, because everyone, from developers to political leaders to affordable housing advocates, they all say the same thing. The West is growing. And if we shut the door, stop building, we limit housing supply, prices go up even more. So cities continue to sprawl in these dry Western towns like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Boise. That helps solve housing affordability, but it does not solve the water problem.”

[7:45] KR: “The American ideal, the American myth of what homeownership means, of what living in a suburban community means, needs to be reshaped in the West.

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 10 min | 🗓️ 09/02/2021
✅ Time saved: 8 min