Las Vegas, a “water conservation rock star” whose ‘cash for grass’ program is a model for western US cities, now aims to further cut its water use by another 23% by 2035. The desert city began pivoting to conservation in 2002, promoting cash rebates to help customers replace lawns with desert plants (saving 11.4 billion gallons a year since 2002), banning lawns in new subdivisions, setting water budgets for golf courses, adopting seasonal watering restrictions, and further tightening restrictions on grass. Since 2002, southern Nevada’s use of Colorado River water has dropped 26%, even as the population has grown, and per capita water use dropped 48%. Wastewater used indoors is treated and released back into Lake Mead and Southern Nevada receives credit for each gallon returned. As well as prioritizing conservation, the Las Vegas area’s water managers have sought to plan for extreme scenarios by making it possible to pump even if Lake Mead reaches ‘dead pool’ levels.

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