The Las Vegas Strip is the brightest spot on Earth, famous for operating 24/7 and for its opulent displays that include fountains, massive buffets and more. But perhaps unbeknownst to some visitors is that many major properties are renowned for their sustainability efforts. When it comes to water, hotels and casinos on the Strip are some of the most efficient users in the drought-stricken region, says Bronson Mack, outreach manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Resort properties account for about 7 percent of water use throughout the Valley, Mack continued. Factor in that water used indoors on the Strip is reclaimed, recycled and placed back into Lake Mead (as is the case for indoor water use across most of the Valley), and the Strip’s water impact is even smaller. “Probably 3 to 4 percent of our total water is actually consumed by casinos,” Mack said. “And they are the backbone of our local economy.”
In addition, most of the major casino companies tout a recycling rate of more than 40 percent, compared with the approximately 20 percent recycling rate in Clark County in 2017. Jeremy Walters, a spokesperson for Republic Services, which oversees recycling in Southern Nevada, said MGM in particular—which operates Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and several other Strip properties—has been a recycling leader in the region. “MGM properties have an extensive sustainability program that not only targets the recovery of recyclable materials, but food waste as well,” Walters wrote in an email.
So how do these massive properties, many of which are luxury hotels designed with comfort in mind, manage to stay green?
Casinos don’t consume more water, in large part, due to smart landscaping techniques and minimal landscaping overall, Mack said. In Southern Nevada, outdoor water use accounts for the most water loss overall because it doesn’t get reclaimed, recycled and put back into the water system and Lake Mead. Instead, it is lost through evaporation or seeps into the ground.
For this reason, the Strip’s relative lack of grassy lawns—the biggest water suckers in the Valley—and use of desert-appropriate native plants make it an environmental steward of sorts, Mack noted. “The fact that the resorts very early on adopted more water-smart outdoor landscaping already reduces how much water they would consume,” he said.
Most of the water used by the Strip, Mack said, is for the cooling systems that keep hotels and casinos air- conditioned for more than half the year. “Think about the footprint of the buildings; they’re huge,” he said. “And you have the slot machines giving off heat, and you have the people giving off heat. So there is a constant cooling process that has to happen within the casinos.”
And although that water gets recycled back into the system, it takes a significant amount of energy to pump the water back into Lake Mead and to clean it, Mack said. So instead, properties have adopted ways to reduce indoor water use as well, including installing low-flow showerheads, educating employees about ways to conserve water and setting overall water-use goals.
Caesars Entertainment, for example, which operates Caesars Palace, the Linq, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Paris and the Flamingo, set a goal for all its properties worldwide: reduce its 2008 water consumption levels by 20 percent by the year 2020. The company surpassed that goal in 2017 and is now aiming to reduce water use at all properties by 25 percent of 2008 levels by the year 2025, said Gwen Migita, global lead for social impact equity and sustainability at Caesars.
At Caesars, the company is constantly looking to limit grass and turf on its properties and to upgrade toilets and showerheads using the latest water-saving technologies. Because it owns many properties, these types of small but systemic changes can have a big effect on overall water use. “A lot of it is about retrofitting systems,” Migita said.