Las Vegas and Conserving Water

Most people around here use large closed plastic tanks.

A pipe from the roof gutters goes into an inlet in the top, and there are outlets for taps or pipes.

It used to be illegal in CA. It hasn’t been since 2012. I have at least one co-worker with a half-dozen capture barrels on his suburban property. As of 2019 rainwater catchment systems are exempt from property tax assessments but can be included in the value of a sold home. CA has completely reversed course on this one as the value of rainwater capture and the pressures of years of drought have been made clear in the last decade. Toilet systems that use rainwater for flushing are still pretty rare I think, but no doubt will continue to increase. For the most part I think most capture systems I’ve heard of have been used for landscape irrigation. We’re still playing catch-up on this compared to some parts of the world where this has been common for much longer.

Far as I can tell the only state where it still largely illegal is Colorado.

My guess is that many people would be very uncomfortable with that sort of recycling. I’ve heard it called “toilet to tap” and even if the water is perfectly safe, they’re still going to be uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, around here, the water department actually charges you for rainwater that falls on your property, unless you’re capturing it.

And uncomfortable or no, everyone uses that sort of recycling, on some scale or another.

Quite probably, yes, but as with nuclear power, it’s probably going to be an essential part of any water management plan in the future, so it’s worth a bit of effort to get people over their discomfort.

Or, if you are interested in fresh water, you could move to the Great Lakes instead of the freaking desert! :smiley:

Las Vegas already recycles most of its water in this way. Clean(er) water from the sewage treatment plants is discharged through the Las Vegas Wetlands (ya rly!) and drains into Lake Mead.

I suspect the degree of discomfort is related to the size of the loop. Deep aquifers can be old water. El Paso drinks Albuquerque’s effluent, then puts it right back in the Rio Grande. I understand Las Vegas has a nearly closed loop with Lake Mead.

I think you slipped a decimal point: 4 in = 0.1 m

As I understand it, the recycling plants clean the water enough that it’s potable, so in theory, there’s no need to discharge it into the wetlands. It could just be sent out to homes but I think that direct connection is too much in people’s minds.

A meter is 39 inches, 2.3x39=89.7 inches. I suppose Singapore’s problem is being a small flat sea island, so the key point is to capture that before it runs into the salty water.

I wonder too, as a person living where fresh water is abundant - how much I waste every time waiting for the hot water from the tank to reach the tap halfway or more across my house. I would imagine a hot water on demand system beside each sink would be more efficient.

However, my toilets are already efficient, thanks to country-wide standards. You only get the full flush if you hold the handle the whole time.

I think a grey-water system would be a useful configuration for a house - the water from the washing machine, dishwasher, baths, showers, and even sinks could probably be used to flush toilets, for example. There was a suggestion once it be allowed for watering lawns, but all that would mean is that homeowners who wanted to water their lawns might just run fresh water through their bathtub as needed.

And retrofitting grey water systems onto a house would be expensive and disruptive. Water would have to get pretty expensive to justify it.

I wonder if part of the concern with rainwater collection in urban areas would be that the same amount of pollution run-off reaches the river, just less diluted if everyone collects rainwater. Then, if that water is used for lawn watering - how do you tell the ones who are legitimately using rainfall from those who have surreptitiously filled their rain barrels from the tap? Hence, ban all watering.

There is a way to run a loop to the furthest sink so there is no delay in getting hot water and no water wasted. I saw this demonstrated on This Old House or Ask This OId House.

That’s known as a recirculation line. In some places they’re mandatory for new construction. But they can be very difficult to add as a retrofit and clunky to operate.

In large buildings they’re always running. The one on This Old House that I recall seeing was a pump that would push water back through the cold water line or something to that effect. You would still need to switch it on first and you wouldn’t want to leave it on.

The problem with a recirculator is that while they save water, they also waste a lot of energy. No matter how well you insulate those pipes, the heat still bleeds away and causes the water heater to run more. Home-run manifold plumbing with smaller diameter pipes, or point-of-use water heating are other alternatives but they have their own challenges.

I suggested this to some guy who had a similar problem - build a recirc system. My suggestion would be to have it triggered by the bathroom light switch or fan, so it did not waste energy or water heat when not in demand. The minute or two between turning on light and turning on tap should be sufficient to get hot water.

I heard an interesting podcast - “Don’t eat the icicles!”. Those icicles hanging from the eaves when the sun melts the rooftop snow but it’s cold enough to freeze as it drips - they may look gorgeous and pristine glistening in the sun, but don’t break them off and chew on them. You know what else is on your roof? Bird poop!

I imagine the same applies in the hot south - the rain barrel basically accumulates bird poop run-off from your roof. The less often it rains, the worse your water will be. That water would only be good for toilet flushes, washing the car, and watering the garden.

Nobody should be drinking from rain barrels; they are strictly for grey water usage. But the reasons for the bans in southwest states are because of water rights and river treaty obligations, not public health. As mentioned above, most of the states now allow residential rain water collection, at least under some circumstances.

The problem is - if a rain barrel can only be used for things like watering the lawn - the first thing cities will do when water is scarce is forbid watering. This is necessary to prevent people who don’t give a flying darn from filling their rain barrel from the tap at night.

Why is that a problem? Watering lawns should be a low priority for water, in the setting of any shortage. People like lawns, sometimes due to status as much as aesthetics. If you live in a desert, one must be realistic, and it seems like Las Vegas is being reasonably practical.

I can’t think of any reason to even have a lawn in a desert community like Las Vegas.

Plenty of swimming pools, though, I’m sure.