Nevada's population is projected to soar by a whopping 59 percent over the next 20 years and propel the number of residents over the 3 million mark, a new study by the University of Nevada, Reno projects.
State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle said an additional 1.3 million people are anticipated in Nevada, which would put the state's population at roughly 3.6 million by 2024.
"What's really driving growth in Nevada is the creation of jobs, primarily in the Las Vegas hotel and gaming resort industry," Hardcastle told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
"People also are moving here for retirement reasons. If you look at those turning in drivers licenses, 10 to 12 percent are people over 60 who are moving in and getting Nevada licenses," he said.
In comparing Nevada to Census Bureau projections, Hardcastle said he expects the state to continue outpacing the national grow rate in the coming years.
In southern Nevada's Clark County, the population is expected to climb 69 percent.
Hardcastle project's Washoe County's population will jump 29 percent, while Carson City will increase 19 percent.
The largest growth is anticipated in rural Lyon County east of Carson City and Reno that includes the fast-growing Dayton and Fernley areas. Growth there is anticipated to jump 80 percent.
The state demographers projections are conducted annually and used to help officials prepare the state budget and for local governments planning. They were prepared using a model that relates a county's population and economy to other counties in the model and the nation as a whole, Hardcastle said.
A limited water supply will be one of the biggest challenges facing Nevada as it grapples with growth, said Greg Bortolin, Gov. Kenny Guinn's spokesman.
"Growth was Nevada's No. 1 issue before Gov. Guinn, and it will be our No. 1 issue after Gov. Guinn," Bortolin said.
"How do you pay for it?" he said. "It's a real delicate balancing act you have to do between maintaining our quality of life and a healthy business climate."
But growth is not forecast for all of Nevada's 17 counties. The state demographer predicts nine rural counties - Elko, Esmerald, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Mineral, Pershing and White Pine - will lose residents.
"Some of the rural counties will be hit because, even though mining has been picking up, in the long term, it looks like that industry faces continued uncertainty," Hardcastle said.