CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA
Water Use: 129 gallons per person, per day
Threatened Species: Devils Hole pupfish, Amargosa pupfish, Warm Springs pupfish, Yuma clipper rail, southwestern willow flycatcher
Amid the flashing casino lights and flashier entertainment, it’s easy to forget that Las Vegas sits in the middle of the desert, and that mirage of excess is built on a quickly dwindling water supply. Beyond The Strip and the golf courses are sweeping subdivisions with large land and water footprints. In the past 25 years or so, the city’s population has tripled, increasing demand for even more housing and infrastructure. Front lawns are now illegal in Vegas, but 70 percent of Lake Mead water, which provides the vast majority of the county’s water supply, still goes to landscaping.
Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The city’s water consumption has far-reaching effects on wildlife throughout the region. About 90 percent of Vegas’ water comes from Lake Mead on the Colorado River, home to a range of endangered fish, birds and amphibians. When full, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the country, but today it’s at its lowest level since construction. Las Vegas’ search for new sources of water to feed its growing thirst is putting even more wildlife in the crosshairs, such as the Devils Hole pupfish, a highly endangered fish whose only known habitat on Earth has the misfortune to be located a mere 90 miles west of the City of Sin.