The perplexing shades of smarter

VegasCanalAh, the canals of Vegas. Such interesting times we live in, that people would take the time to ride a gondola in a 25-yard long baby pool, equipped when authentically clad gondola driver but minus any of the real atmosphere of the Venice Grand Canal it is patterned after. The Grand Canal Shoppes is, no doubt, an impressive creation. And one can see why a $75 hamburger is necessary to keep things floating. But it’s also a sad reminder that the part of Nevada that Las Vegas sits in is naturally lovely as a desert, while the massive artificial structures by which it defies its natural ecosystem come at no small cost. The Las Vegas Sun says that without significant change in water use patterns, Lake Mead, which supplies 88% of the water used by Las Vegas, could run dry by 2021.

But in the midst of it all and out of clear necessity, the city is one of the wisest smart water users in the United States. An innovative conservation program in Las Vegas Valley has encouraged thousands of homeowners to move from water-hogging lawns to natural landscaping and drought-resistant plants. And the big casinos power most of their water features from wells instead of from Lake Mead. I’ve noticed on recent trips to tech conferences in Vegas that many hotels have installed resource saving devices like low-flow toilets and shower nozzles, and of course, they’ve been recycling the air for years. That’s what central air-conditioning does, as well as removing the water from the air and persons walking and breathing in it. I’ve had this personal theory for years that we business (and pleasure) travelers to Las Vegas are actually powering the fountains on the Vegas strip with our own lost moisture.

It’s not all that far-fetched. Ever heard of the Air2Water drinking fountain that converts ambient atmospheric water vapor into potable water?

So Las Vegas to me is a strange dichotomy — a city struggling to implement the principles of a smarter planet, but also living in defiance of the idea by existing in the Nevada desert. Maybe it is a reflection of many such dichotomies in our own lives.

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