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Las Vegas To Be The Center Of Global Water Crisis Talks

lake_mead8.jpg

Natalie Cullen

Hoover Dam from the lake side.

Yes, it’s been a wet winter in Southern Nevada. But, the region is still dealing with drought conditions.

If you need proof – just visit Lake Mead where the water level has dropped, leaving an ugly white bathtub ring around the lake.

Even farmers, ranchers and casino operators are all conserving water.

But is it enough? What about desalination or the impact drought has on our economic development?

Those are just a couple of the topics that will be discussed next week at the Jewish National Fund’s Las Vegas Water Summit at UNLV.

Nathan Allen is the executive director of Nevada's Center of Excellence, the center works to leverage the expertise already in the state to improve the efficiency of how we use and save water. It also brings in outside companies to work with local companies and experts to maximize water savings. 

Allen will be part of the summit next week. He said people don't understand the complexity of water resource management or its impact.  

"I think water is one of those infrastructure things that people don't often think about," he said.

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The summit will feature Seth Siegel, who wrote "Let There Be Water: Israel's Solution for a Water-Starved World."

Siegel agreed that water is not something people think about much, but the water contamination in Flint, Michigan and the water shortages in the Western U.S. are the consequences of people and public officials not paying attention.

“It is a lack of serious awareness by our senior government officials on water issues and that really has to change," he said, "This is an example of what I mean where citizen sort of just allow this to be pushed off to the side. And our elected officials allow it to shoved into some bureaucracy."

 He contrasted that with Israel, which has been thinking about and trying to find solutions for the water shortage since before the actual state of Israel was created.  

Siegel said water management and solutions are just as important to the state of Israel as security and the military.

"It's become for Israel and existential issue," he said, "No different frankly than the national security or the military or its ability to absorb immigrants."

Siegel said Israel took a "multi-faceted, all-of-the-above strategy" when it came to water policy. It didn't rely on one thing to fix the problem but instead used all kinds of efforts with the singular goal of securing the future of water in the region. 

He said Southern Nevada needs to "broaden its lens" when it comes to water. By that he means, the whole Colorado River water shed should be involved in the conversations and the solutions.  

"There is a different way of looking at it rather than a source of conflict and shortage," he said, "Rather looking at it as a way to maximize and create new abundance for everybody." 

Allen agreed, but said it is not easy to get everyone in different states, regions, cities and towns to change what they've been doing for years, like switch from flood irrigation, which takes up a lot of water, to drip irrigation, which uses a lot less. 

"It's like any business," he said, "It's not easy to shift your entire business model... But through a coordinated effort both of those folks on the upper part of the river and the lower part of the river is really essential." 

Allen said there needs to be a way to incentivize better use of the river's water. 

Siegel said in Israel guarding the region's water resources is considered a civic duty. Conservation is taught to kids at a very young age and is touted throughout the country. 

He also said that cities and towns are given government bonuses for adopting new water saving technology. 

 

Courtesy: Thomas Dunne Books

 

Seth M. Siegel

 

Nathan Allan

 

 

Guests

Seth Segal, author, “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World,”  Nathan Allan, executive director, Nevada’s Center of Excellence.

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