Doomsday planning

-A A +A
By Optic Editorial Board

It’s not a pleasant scenario — Las Vegas water reserves drop so low that drastic emergency measures are imposed — but it needs to be considered. That’s why the City Council is right to be taking a hard look at the water restrictions necessary under such dire circumstances.

Moreover, we commend the council for its decision to offer up the entire plan, well in advance of such a nightmare scenario, for public input. Now is the time to wrestle with it — before a severe water shortage confronts the community head-on.

Before the rains came, there were concerns that   the Gallinas River may not have enough flow to supply Las Vegas with water beyond January. The river accounts for 90 percent of the city’s supply, so it’s past time to find ways to cut down on consumption and increase supply.

Generally, the plan as outlined so far would begin when the city’s water storage hits 60 percent, starting with emergency meetings of several agencies and an aggressive public awareness campaign.

At 50 percent, a freeze on water taps and construction projects would be imposed, while other measures such as rate increases and shutoffs for wasteful users would be at the city’s discretion.

Then, at 40 percent, mandatory reductions and monthly limits on usage would be imposed, with meters being read weekly and shutoffs happening when customers exceed their monthly rations. Plus, water rates would automatically go up 1.5 times for more than 1,000 gallons of residential use. As storage drops to 30 and 20 percent, rationing would get tighter.

Finally, if storage levels ever drop to 10 percent, all but non-essential water customers will have their water shut off, with emergency water filling stations set up around the city for citizens.

Of course, those restrictions are directed at the demand side of the equation.

On the supply side, the city is working to raise Peterson Reservoir’s storage capacity, look into desalination at Tayor Well No. 7, and create (and pay for) a capital project to repair and replace leaking pipes.

Right now our storage capacity is more than 60 percent, so we’re not in such dire straits yet. That means it’s a good time to be preparing for some tough times ahead. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” is a good mantra for Las Vegas. The council has taken the right step forward with its doomsday plan. Now the citizenry needs to add its two cents.