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By Doug Farquhar

Many tourists love to watch the beautiful, intricate water show at Las Vegas’ Bellagio. What they may not realize is the water that splashes the crowd is non-drinkable recycled water.

Credit: Bellagio.comMarco Velotta, the director of sustainability for the city of Las Vegas, says that such recycling efforts allow the city to return water to Lake Mead. For a growing desert city of over 500,000 residents that uses 400,000 acre feet a year of water (and receives only 300,000 acre feet from Colorado River), any return of water is a testament to the success of water recycling.

States as well are embracing water recycling.

California’s severe drought conditions led the Legislature to adopt Senate Bill 322 this year which requires the State Department of Public Health to look into developing uniform water recycling criteria to ensure recycled water is drinkable. The Oklahoma legislature recently adopted Oklahoma’s SB 1187 that directs the Department of Environmental Quality to permit water districts to reuse wastewater. With over 80 percent of the state in drought conditions, every drop of water counts, including waste water.

Even in wet, tropical states like Florida and Hawaii water recycling programs are gaining popularity.

Hawaii adopted Senate Bill 454 which explores the use of recycled gray water for landscape irrigation purposes and encourages the Department of Health to promote widespread reuse of waste water. Florida, which can boast more reused waste water of any state, expanded its water recycling program this year through Senate Bill 536, requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to study beneficial use of reclaimed water, stormwater, and excess surface water.

Although one of the wettest states in the nation, it is also one of the fastest growing. Maintaining an adequate water supply for the incoming residents and tourists is a constant challenge, and Florida has learned to use every source available.

Doug Farquhar is a program director in NCSL's Environment, Energy and Transportation Program. —

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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