By Matthew Power. With the Colorado River at its lowest level in decades, one would think that developers would get a dry, dusty shoulder at the suggestion of putting a 15,000-home development on 1,000 acres of federal land being auctioned off in the Las Vegas Valley. Focus Property Group wants to create a huge, master planned community on the site, and Clark County has already approved the plans. Why isn't water an issue like it is in Santa Fe and other cities in the parched region?

"We actually have water resources identified that will last for the next 50 years, at current growth levels," notes J.C. Davis, with the Southern Nevada Water Authority. "Most of that comes from the Colorado. We're operating on the assumption that this is not a long-term drought that will last 10 years. [so far it has lasted about three years]."

Davis says the Water Authority has cleverly mitigated the impact of the drought so far, by diverting some of the Colorado and "injecting" their natural groundwater reservoir with 250,000 acre feet of water. And because of a highly efficient water treatment process, new homes don't have a large net impact on water consumption. About 90 percent of what goes down the drain is recovered.

"The biggest concern is lawn irrigation," Davis notes. "That water is non-reclaimable. Any development will face new rules about the amount of turf it can have. If it wasn't for outdoor watering of lawns and gardens, those 15,000 new homes wouldn't matter [in terms of water usage]. But in our area, outdoor water use accounts for 50 percent of residential water in the winter, and 90 percent in the summer. We're already talking to them about ways to reduce those figures."