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Las Vegas may limit residential pool size

A lot of ideas have been put on the table to help with Las Vegas’ efforts to conserve water, and it appears that among those being dished out is a new residential swimming pool size limit.

On July 19, the Las Vegas Water District and Clark County commissioners voted to limit the construction size of new swimming pools to 600 square feet. The new restriction will go into place on Sept. 1, 2022.

In a presentation given during the meeting, Las Vegas Valley Water District General Manager John Entsminger explained this kind of restriction is needed because of shrinking water levels at Lake Mead and the Colorado River. He provided a model from the Bureau of Reclamation showing that lake elevations are drastically falling with estimates that if Southern Nevada continues to see little rain, the lake will be close to dead-pool level by 2026. According to Bronson Mack, with the Southern Nevada Water Authority, limiting the surface area of residential pools to 600 square feet is expected to reduce evaporation of pool water by about 10 percent, which works out to about 3.2 million gallons of water per year.

The size restriction is not a big sacrifice, he implied, compared to measures taken in other droughtstricken communities, such as preventing pool construction altogether. Meanwhile, Mack said that 75 percent of pools installed in Southern Nevada in the past five years were already 600 square feet or less, with an average size of about 475 square feet.

“This really only affects the top 25 percent of swimming pools being constructed each year,” Mack said. “We have seen a proliferation in excess of one thousand, two thousand or three thousand square feet. There is one right now that is 5,000 square feet that is looking to be permitted. I don’t know about you, but that is two times the size of my residential home.”

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is in agreement about the pool size restriction. One pool builder (who wished to remain anonymous) said that it may not be the most appropriate solution because people’s lot and home sizes vary so widely.

“Some people have two-acre lots with 10,000 square-foot homes,” he said. “A 20-by-30 pool would be like a postage stamp there.”

The builder has proposed alternate solutions, such as allowing pool sizes to increase based on lot size. Beyond a specified limit, pool owners could pay a conservation fee. Exemptions could be given if owners installed an automatic pool cover, which would reduce evaporation rates dramatically.

The pool builder said that such measures could result in 29 percent more water savings than the 600-square-foot limit.

The current restriction reduces water by only 0.1 gallons per capita per day, which, compared to other water saving measures outlined in the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s 2021 Water Resource Plan, is the least impactful of the measures proposed. (Other measures include prohibiting new golf course developments, enhancing leak resolution, limiting turf installations, and implementing price changes, to name a few.)

The builder was disappointed by the decision and said it would have a negative impact on his business.

“We’re just a small company. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into what we feel is a better solution. It’s our livelihood on the line, and (the livelihoods) of our employees and subcontractors.”

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