Coachella Valley has a ways to go. They lag behind even Las Vegas in water conservation efforts.

The pitfalls of talking to the press. In an article in the Desert Sun on how Las Vegas does a better job conserving water than the Coachella Valley in California (home to wealthy tourist enclaves like Palm Springs, and Desert Mirage, for those who aren’t sure why the comparison is being made), I was quoted about Las Vegas’ current efforts:

“They’ve designed their programs to go after maximum water savings, while having enough water to support the landscape that’s appropriate for a desert environment,” said Chris Brown, a water conservation consultant and former executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council. “That’s what I’d support for the Coachella Valley. It doesn’t make sense to import an English lawn.”

The problem that I have with the article is they give Pat Mulroy, a self-promoter if ever there was one, credit for “spearheading” Las Vegas water conservation efforts. The truth is that she was an ardent critic of water conservation in the late 80s and early 90s when Rob Rosenthal, Jeff Van Ee, Jim Deacon, Phil Regli, and I began pushing for the landscape conversion programs which Las Vegas has now been running for more than a decade.

A combination of grassroots pressure, academics with integrity, and even her own staff recognizing that the Las Vegas Water Grab was not going to save development in Las Vegas, saw water conservation go from window dressing  to the top priority in Las Vegas water plans. The evidence is there in documents, but reporters don’t have the time to go back and do their homework anymore, so they just write down what she tells them, that she was the head of the pack, when it is more like she finally understood which way the crowd was headed, grabbed the flag of conservation, and ran to the front of the line.

One can only hope that in the face of global warming, the current water managers in Las Vegas get it, and turn the window dressing into real conservation. Tucson, AZ uses less than 1/2 the amount of water per person as Las Vegas!

The vast amounts of money that Pat and the Southern Nevada Water authority wasted on the Water Grab over the past two decades may yet come back to puncture her self proclaimed hero status with the pain of reality. Over the past two years since she resigned, the news has not been good for her legacy in the temple to mammon. Lawsuits filed by former workers allege not only good money thrown after bad, but a coverup to keep the public in the dark.

And the water managers in Coachella sound pretty smug in the article that their water rights on the Colorado are more senior than Las Vegas’. They need to remember that water rights are only as good as the water in the river, and that once the water in Lake Mead falls below the outfall on the dam, it won’t be arriving at their pumps.



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