Last Call at the Oasis left me super depressed and reluctant to bathe. The documentary released earlier this year about global water shortages featured scene upon scene of parched farms and dying children, along with familiar indictments of water-sucking villains like Las Vegas, and a curt warning from local water czar Pat Mulroy about the coming waterless apocalypse.
What the film didn’t include was any hint that the way to stop the apocalypse was for the Southern Nevada Water Authority to severely raise the water fees on charities.
Nonprofit organizations such as the Shade Tree shelter for abused women, along with small businesses, recently saw their bills skyrocket based on the size of the pipe that’s hooked to their building rather than on actual water usage. Shade Tree representatives say the shelter’s water bill will go up $12,000 annually, an amount that cannot be passed along to needy clients and therefore must be, well, absorbed. Many of these small businesses and nonprofits are straitjacketed: By law, they must have sprinkler systems and fire hydrants, which require large pipes.
The surcharge is meant to replace revenue previously derived from new construction fees that dipped when the recession hit; the money is needed to pay a bond debt of $3.3 billion.
It’s a tight spot, to be sure. But as Last Call at the Oasis reminds us, water management boils down to ethical questions. Perhaps the Authority missed that point.