Nevada state lawmakers are considering a plan to give water authorities the power to limit the amount of water available for residential use.
“It’s a worst case scenario plan,” Democratic Assemblyman Howard Watts of Las Vegas, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Associated Press. “It makes sure that we prioritize the must-haves for a home. Your drinking water, your basic health and safety needs.”
Lawmakers will gather to discuss the sweeping change, which would grant the Southern Nevada Water Authority the ability to cap residential water use in single-family homes to 160,000 gallons per year, on Monday.
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Proponents of the bill argue that drought, climate change and a surge in demand have contributed to the deepening problem, with key Colorado River reservoirs that Nevada and six other states depending on seeing their water levels shrink to all-time lows. The Las Vegas area gets 90% of its water from the Colorado River.
Rules limiting the use of water are nothing new to Nevada residents, who saw an 8% reduction of their supply of Colorado River water after recent mandatory cuts. Many residents have yet to feel the pinch of the shrinking supply, in large part because the Southern Nevada Water Authority recycles much of the water used indoors and prevents the state from using its full allotment.
Nevada lawmakers have also recently banned ornamental grass at office parks, in street medians and entrances to housing developments, while Clark County capped the size of new swimming pools at single-family residential homes.
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But a state law granting the water authority more power would carry more force than local ordinances, proponents say, causing more jurisdictions that rely on the Colorado River elsewhere to make cuts to their use.
Bronson Mack, a spokesperson for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told the Associated Press that the authority has not yet made a plan for how it would implement or enforce the new limits, while cautioning that passing the bill would not automatically go into effect.
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The agency also noted that the average home uses about 130,000 gallons of water annually, meaning the largest users of water would most feel the pinch from a 160,000-gallon cap.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.