On a ride with the Las Vegas water cops

There`s a lot of things you could imagine you would need a policeman for in Las Vegas, but few people would imagine that this city of abundance has water police. Las Vegas, the city where you can do whatever you like and spend as much as you want….. forget it, those days are gone.

After explosive growth rates, Las Vegas is now suffering severely from the economic crisis that hit the USA. The city suffers even more though, from the drought period that hit the western USA during the last decade. With an exploding population and decreasing water levels in nearby water reservoir Lake Mead, Las Vegas actually might face water shortages in the coming years. Hence the water police.

`We try to change people´s behaviour`, says Kevin Perry, a friendly water policeman, while he pulls up his truck along the road in the Los Prados residential neighbourhood area in central Las Vegas. `Look there`, he says, `This sprinkler is using too much water. We inform the people that they have to repair it, in order to avoid water waste. Otherwise, they`ll have to pay a fine.’

Three phases of landscaping in Las Vegas. Left: the good old water guzzling green lawn, center: the sprinklers have been turned of. Right: a water friendly rock garden.

The water police activities are effective, just as other measures, such as the cash-for-grass-programme of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The idea: people receive 1,50 Dollar per acre of grass which they turn into desert landscape. The reason: grass takes up too much of the precious Colorado water, on which Las Vegas is dependent. `People accept the changes`, says Perry`s colleague Kristen Howley. `But of course there will always be a few people who want to keep their grass. We`ll have to pry the lawnmower out of their dead hands, so to say.´

Jeroen Kuiper Photos: Ronald de Hommel

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