Tight on water, Nevada tourism industry getting creative
Sep. 23, 2015
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Las Vegas has thrived against the odds for decades as an oasis in the desert. But persistent drought and growing sensitivity toward climate change has prompted businesses dependent on tourism to rethink their freewheeling approach to water.
At the Nevada Governor's Drought Summit in Carson City this week, companies shared a few ways they're trying to squeeze every drop out of scarce resources — and keep the visitors coming even in dry times.
With about 150,000 hotel rooms, Las Vegas produces plenty of dirty laundry every night. Nevada-based Brady Linens works to cut down on the water needed to clean the towels, bed sheets and pillowcases by putting them through massive, expensive tunnel washers.
Tunnel washers cut down on water waste by guiding laundry through a long tube with a giant corkscrew. Laundry moves in one direction through chambers with progressively cleaner water; the water is pushed in the opposite direction.
The process makes more use of dirty water than conventional washers, which use a rinse and spin cycle to remove soapy residue and water from laundry. Brady Linens uses 0.7 gallon of water per pound of linen, instead of the 2.5 gallons of water per pound in traditional laundry facilities.
The 72 percent water savings adds up for the business, which cleans 6 million pieces of laundry every day. Company President Eric Brady said about 21,500 Las Vegas-area hotel rooms are served by water-efficient wash technology, but the area's hotels could save 749 million gallons of water a year if they all used it.
THE DRY THAW
Thawing frozen meat by placing it under running water can send plenty of liquid down the drain. Chris Brophy, vice president of corporate sustainability at MGM Resorts International, said the casino company has encouraged restaurants to think ahead and place meat in walk-in coolers overnight instead.
Brophy said one of MGM's restaurants saved 3 million gallons of water over the course of a year as a result — and said MGM could multiply that savings by revising thawing practices in all of its 300 restaurants.
DESERT-STYLE GOLF COURSES
Angel Park Golf Club in Las Vegas reduced its water consumption by removing about 33 acres of turf around its edges and replacing it with desert landscaping. The club said it focused on areas that are out-of-play and that golfers typically don't visit anyway.
The club also uses computerized irrigation systems and weather monitoring stations to ensure sprinklers don't turn on when rain has recently fallen.
Redesigning golf courses aligns with a larger effort by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to get people to rip out their water-guzzling grass. The agency pays people $2 per square foot to remove their lawn and swap it for landscaping that's more natural to the desert, such as drought-resistant plants and rock or bark.