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I want to have Las Vegas be a huge, bustling city in my post-apocalyptic world. I want 6,000 people to be living there, at least, and I want it to act as a trading hub in the area, with plenty of gambling, prostitution, drugs and etc.

The only problem is Las Vegas is in the middle of the Nevada Desert, so I am questioning how they would go about producing food. It’s pretty hard to grow food in the area.

So my question is: How could the people in Las Vegas produce food after the war?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Apr 17 at 16:46
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Atmospheric water generators (AWG) would be particularly helpful here. Rainwater harvesting and indoor farming would also be major contributors to the livelihood of your population.

You mentioned that your world is post-apocalyptic. So, are they the only people left (at least in the United States)? Is national trade available? If not, then your people should have a notable focus on canning and preservatives. Some foods will not be available year-round even after taking that into consideration. Somewhat secondary, you can factor this into the seasonal economy of your population.

Another strong consideration are GMOs. Plants can be modified to increase the amount/size of the fruit. They can also be modified to withstand the harsher climate of the desert. Your population can even create entirely new species of plants that never existed before. Animals can be modified to breed faster and have larger broods.

Ideally, for this community to be sustainable, they would have to be resourceful and have a fair knowledge of agriculture, engineering and science.

Additionally, here is a very short list of just a few plants and animals that have evolved to endure arid/semi-arid environments. I just wanted to give you some valid examples:

Plants Pumpkin Squash Corn Potato Spinach Beans Broccoli Carrots Radish

Animals Lizard Camel Coyote Snake Deer Sheep Tortoise Rabbit Snake

considering the fact that the world is post-apocalyptic, there is a decent chance that some animals not normally found in the Nevada desert might migrate there

Also, for more diversity, you might want to consider extending your population pass the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. One of the main reasons for any group to venture out and migrate is because of a lack of food. That's why there's very few large cities in deserts. Historically, people gravitate to areas that are abundant and rich in resources, which are usually areas that are close to the ocean. Is there a reason why they're stuck there?

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, tbh there only there because I wanted a gambling city. At first I had them being nomadic tribals and whatnot $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Apr 18 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see. I would strongly suggest moving them closer to an ocean though. At the same time... if this is for a story that you're writing... I see much more potential in keeping them there. I think there's a lot of creative aspects that you can really evolve just from using some of the examples in my comment. Adding gambling, prostitution and drugs to the mix would really shake things up even more. Hopefully, my suggestions were helpful. Cheers! ☺️ $\endgroup$ – Rauri Apr 18 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a bunch, Rauri. Can I ask you one more question though: I’ve been looking everywhere for good names for characters. Can I use your username? I really like it. $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Apr 18 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ Sure thing. The names I first attempt on different platforms are almost always taken, and I hate adding numbers after, so I've developed a knack for creating fun, unconventional names on the spot. Use away! $\endgroup$ – Rauri Apr 18 at 22:19
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The Ideal:
There is farming near Las Vegas.

For example, this kind of hydroponic indoor farm. This kind of farming can be done in the casinos themselves. You don't need 20 floors of hotel rooms: just convert as much as possible to indoor farming.

Your gangsters and johns are simply going to have to be part time gardeners, because hiring farms hands or feeding slave labourers is going to be expensive.

This could work if the farming infrastructure were already in place before the Pockyclypse.

The Problem:
More than likely, casino crews, crime lords, drug mongers and prostitutes aren't going to be interested in gardening or farming of any kind. Their kind of subhuman existence doesn't really elevate one's horizons much above the gutter, as it's all about instant gratification, power and money. They're going to need a different solution.

Reality Check:
Realistically, the baseline solution for this kind of dystopic society will be to do what crime dens have always relied on: importation & crime! Whatever is needed that can't be found, produced, or made locally will have to be imported. You said Vegas is to be a trading hub, so long haulers bringing goods and food and water will likely stop in the city. Long haulers wanting to pass through the area will be diverted to tithe their hauls to the bosses. And while that's happening, they might try their luck in the Casino! Food will have to be hauled in from whatever local farms there may be or else imported from a distance. Since this is postpockyclyptic and shipments may not be regular, your Vegian thugs will probably have to go on long haul raids to bring back food and water to the metropolis.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good points about 1) The fairly low maximum tithe that thugs can extract before haulers simply refuse to haul there anymore, and 2) The high cost of living. Legitimate commerce will slowly migrate to lower-crime, lower-cost alternatives, until only the mafia-fueled depravity is left in the end...as it was in the beginning.. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Apr 15 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 - Yep. There's got to be a balance between the needs of what's left of society and the greed of the L.V. thuggery. If the thugs tip the balance, there are plenty of other other routes to choose from. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 22 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Elemtilas: The ideal version could work, slavery is supposed to be big in post-apoc Vegas. $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Aug 8 at 4:14
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The Egyptians and Southwest Mesoamericans practiced Channel Irrigation. You could dig channels into the banks of Lake Meade and then use the Hoover Dam to flood the lake and the channels, bringing water and mud to the desert. You could then grow plenty of corn in the muddy channels. There were ancient cultures doing this successfully for centuries in the southwest before they died out mysteriously.

Egypt was so stable and successful because the Nile flooded regularly, but the Mobster-Pharaoh of Vegas could flood the Colorado River at will by ordering floodgates on the Hoover Dam be closed. In the off-season, farmers upriver would maintain the irrigation system in a massive public works campaign. Farmers would float their barges full of corn down the Colorado River to Vegas to sell crops, pay taxes, and acquire gambling addictions.

People living downriver would be upset that they get less water when the river is dammed up and fight for their water rights. A Mobster-Pharaoh might become a living river god like the Egyptian Pharaoh. A bad Mobster-Pharaoh may become decadent, preferring to use the dam for electricity and neglecting his duty to make the river flood.

this link has good info on ancient irrigation: http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Hy-La/Irrigation-Systems-Ancient.html

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Farm the golf courses.

Las Vegas is surrounded by golf courses. A golf course is about 150 acres of turf farm. These have already prepared soil to allow grass to grow and already have irrigation systems which might be more or less salvageable in your post-apocalypse. They can bring in more soil from the abandoned yards and parks. They can use windmills to bring water up from the Colorado.

These golf courses will be on the outskirts of town with your condensed population for 6000. That is fine. You can definitely grow corn, beans and squash on irrigated golf course lands in Las Vegas. Meat can be raised in greener areas and brought in on the hoof.

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There is no problem with what you're proposing. Lake Mead and the Colorado River are reasonably close to build irrigation system from if they don't already exist and 6000 people isn't very large to try to provide for when you're on a lake like that.

The most that you're going to have to do is build an irrigation system and move "Las Vegas" closer the water supply which is inside what is called the City of Paradise.

The biggest problem that you'd face is really that at some point someone's gonna cut off the supply of water from the Great Lakes and you'll get famine and a huge die off which then leaves a bunch of corpses lying around. Once you get past that you might get a lot of fertilized land from that and that should get you all the food production you'd ever need.

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A lot of what your farming capabilities depend on what has happened during the apocalypse. If the irrigation system or water supply system has been damaged, it is unlikely that farming would succeed. For example, if in the apocalypse Hoover Dam was destroyed, then delivering water to thousands of people as well as farms and other industrial purposes would be difficult. However, it is also worth noting that only 90% of Las Vegas's water supply comes from the Lake Mead, which is a large percentage, but your planned city population is only 6,000, which is, after a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation, quite a bit less than 1% of Las Vegas' total population. The remaining 10% comes from groundwater, and if we also assume that your people will be able to get at least some water from the Colorado River, I assume that's sufficient water for your city. As for conditions for planting food or keeping livestock, I imagine that hydroponics would be a good answer. Livestock would primarily need land to graze on, and that would likely be scarce. However, there is some hope, like this former pig farm in North Las Vegas which fed their pigs with leftover food scraps from the Strip. It closed a few years ago, but it's easy to see bigger projects popping up similar to this one. Overall, the farming situation does look optimistic for a smaller Las Vegas, and the trade coming through the city will surely increase the availability of food as well.

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The only problem with Las Vegas is water. The land is fertile enough if you can only irrigate it, and the irrigation systems are all in place.

Now, if 99% of the population are conveniently removed (currently 600k), you have a lot less swimming pools and jacuzzis to fill and a lot more water for efficient water-conserving farming.

So long as whoever sets up the agriculture system knows what they are doing and has sufficient labor to get it going, there is no reason why the place should not feed itself with a more advanced version of what the original inhabitants of that part of the world would have lived on -- maize, squash, beans , plus assorted livestock.

Depending on the type of apocalypse, having such a tiny population means you should be able to supply a certain amount of your meat needs from hunting. Er, how to do you feel about cannibalism for any unfortunate travelers…?

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