High Rollers

March 22, 2019

Partnership connects water use monitoring technology with Las Vegas resorts

About the author:

Nate Allen is executive director for WaterStart. Allen can be reached at [email protected] or 702.862.5416.

When people around the world think about Las Vegas, water innovation might be one of the last things that come to mind. Many may be surprised to know that beyond the bright lights at the heart of the famous Las Vegas Strip, innovative initiatives are taking place to advance water management with new technology. 

Making a Splash

One project currently is underway at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, where sensors and water meters recently have been installed in an effort to gain a better understanding of operating efficiencies, provide asset protection, and enhance conservation and sustainability efforts. This pilot is a collaborative effort between WaterStart, MGM Resorts Intl., the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and tech company Apana. Apana’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology is connected to the casino’s water network and is working to provide real-time, actionable insight about leaks and irregular use through analytics software. The company’s scanning and analysis technology locates any points of water waste or concerning patterns of water usage at selected parts within the Bellagio’s massive infrastructure. Such scans will allow the Bellagio to tweak its water use and note which points within its system are prone to water waste. This is just one of many examples of how the state of Nevada is investing in water.

WaterStart is an innovation accelerator for utilities and large consumers dedicated to the implementation of technologies that result in safer, and more affordable water. A public-private organization created in partnership with the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, WaterStart is a global cluster of recognized leaders in water innovation and experience in the implementation of new technology. Based on the Las Vegas campus of the Desert Research Institute, WaterStart works with its members to identify the technology needs that its partners, like MGM Resorts, are unable to find solutions for within their current market. With this in mind, it then recruits companies around the world with solutions to challenges, and provides the expertise and funding to test and demonstrate the viability of their products. Strategic partnerships across the state allow WaterStart to bridge the gap, enabling technology companies to work closely with first adopters to scale effective solutions faster. 

WaterStart helped bring Apana to Nevada, connecting the company with local resources and partners like SNWA, who partially funded this project. 

In Southern Nevada, widespread use of Apana’s technology could be a game changer, as it has the potential to provide valuable insight into local companies’ water behavior and usage. The partnership with the Bellagio will be the first time that access to such detailed information about a resort’s water utilization will be analyzed. Furthermore, such knowledge is expected to help a water utility like SNWA answer questions about the most efficient and cost-effective relevant water conservation techniques for big local businesses. 

Acknowledging that water is an important part of its business operations, MGM Resorts has been a leader in sustainability innovation, and it continuously is working to ensure water conservation at its Southern Nevada locations. To take water conservation to the next level with resort properties like MGM Resorts, we have to address the large and complex water systems that can be challenging to monitor. This, however, is what makes them the perfect candidate for testing new technologies like what Apana offers. 

With water infrastructure often being hidden, everything from small flaws to larger malfunctions can go unseen without frequent monitoring. Apana’s system uncovers these flaws. It translates consumption data in real time to create actionable information alerts to onsite staff and guide them to stop leaks, fix equipment or correct operating processes before major waste or damage occurs. The technology is designed to conveniently integrate with staff routines, allowing these large properties to manage water in a practical way.

Several critical areas were identified within the Bellagio where opportunities may exist to increase water efficiency. These areas include hot water loops, cooling towers, kitchens and the iconic fountain. Launched in the summer of 2018, this project will span 36 months, during which time Apana’s meters and technology will collect, analyze and communicate data. The system will alert facility management on issues for faster troubleshooting and resolution. Meaningful results are expected by the time the project concludes, such as real reductions in water waste as well as gains in water conservation due to the awareness enabled by real-time measurement. 

The Big Picture

Traditionally, when people think about water technology, they often think of dams, desalination and pipelines. While the state continues to invest in these mega solutions, this project is an example of how the focus is shifting on opportunities to manage the demand of water through investments of a smaller scale of potential. 

Although the Las Vegas Strip uses about 1% of the water Nevada receives from the Colorado River, maximizing the efficiency of that 1% helps to sustain the region and could provide further insight into other water use. Utilizing new technologies offers economic benefits by creating immediate employment opportunities to build infrastructure that in turn enables the development of whole industries such as agriculture and tourism. They allow less water to go further, deliver safer water from more complex sources and enable communities to prosper by maintaining access to affordable water. 

While this project at the Bellagio is sure to make an impact, it is not the first of its kind to be deployed on the Las Vegas Strip. Back in 2015, Las Vegas Boulevard became the first site in the nation to implement IoT water technology. In a partnership between WaterStart and the Las Vegas Valley Water District, tech company Echologics installed its smart monitoring and leak detection system with the goal of reducing the risk of a water main break on the Strip. Because repair work would only need to be initiated within the report corridor when there is a verifiable problem, this non-invasive technology minimizes inconveniences to tourists and visitors on the Strip. While the project cost $1 million, the disruption to businesses in the area would have been a far greater economic detriment. Since the installation, 54 more sensors have been installed throughout the city. 

About the Author

Nate Allen

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