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LETTER: Desalination plants are no panacea for Las Vegas

Updated October 8, 2021 - 9:29 pm

I felt compelled to offer some comments regarding John Neff’s letter advocating desalinization plants as a solution to our water woes.

First, desalinization plants do not cost $32 million to build, at least not in the United States. The Carlsbad, California, plant came in at about $1 billion, with $50 million in annual operating expenses. A second issue is the fact Las Vegas has an elevation about 2,000 feet higher than sea level. In addition to billions of dollars in infrastructure necessary to pipe water here, it would have to be pumped uphill at a cost of several hundred million dollars a year.

Additionally, desalinization plants produce huge amounts of brine, creating yet another environmental challenge for the oceans.

If we absolutely need desalinization plants — and notwithstanding environmental issues — we may want to fund construction of the plant, then trade the water to California in exchange for increased allocations of Colorado River water, assuming the Colorado continues to flow. We don’t necessarily need to make water in Las Vegas expensive via desalinization. We can just make it expensive. We live in the desert. Let’s continue the focus on conservation, with an added incentive of just making water more costly for those intent on spraying it in the air via fountains or through lawn watering.

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