Las Vegas Sun

March 6, 2015

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— Interactive by Zach Wise

Las Vegas was first settled for its springs, springs that made it an oasis in the desert. Although those springs have decades since run dry, water is still the most import resource to Las Vegas and the dry Southwest.

And by all indications the region is only going to get dryer. Scientists predict devastating effects from global warming, conservationists are calling for a halt to growth in Southern Nevada as a way to preserve supplies and water managers are looking to ever more creative ways to reduce reliance on the overburdened Colorado River. A Colorado River reservoir at Lake Mead is the source of 90 percent of the valley's water supply. Water levels there have fallen steadily for nearly a decade.

Now Southern Nevada water managers say they can no longer rely on the river so heavily, and must construct a massive pipeline to draw water stored underground for centuries in rural Nevada to Las Vegas. They say no amount of conservation can replace the need for this backup source of drinking water.

Opponents say the effects of the pumping would be devastating and that the plan would sacrifice a rural, ranching way of life in Eastern Nevada for casinos and tract home in the south.

But it's not only the lack of water that worries environmentalists and water managers alike. It's also water quality, the endangered species that life in Southern Nevada's rivers and streams and the recreation opportunities that make the region's national parks so popular.

Water is one of the most politically charged issues in Nevada today, and it's certainly one of the most important.

Phoebe Sweet

Residential Water Use Interactive

How much water do we use in Las Vegas? Tour the valley to examine residential water consumption in neighborhoods and search the usage for homes in the Sun's water interactive.

Archive highlights

The Equation: No water, no growth

Sun, Jun 15, 2008

The congressman from American Samoa was confused. Could Senator Reid clarify for him again who owned the land around Las Vegas? Nevada? The U.S. government? Bugsy Siegel?

Satiating a booming city

Sun, Jun 1, 2008

How had it come to this? A thriving region of nearly 2 million people was running out of water even as the mighty Colorado River flowed just 30 miles away. ...

The Chosen One

Sun, Jun 8, 2008

The men who manage urban water districts in the West tend to come out of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Who better to understand how and where Western water is ...

Water: The more you use, the more you’ll have to pay

Tue, Apr 8, 2008

The county’s largest water district is adopting “conservation pricing.” The concept is simple: If you want people to use less water, make it more expensive, especially for those who use ...

All stories

Water rate hike OK’d for valley homes, businesses

Tue, Mar 3, 2015

Water rates are going up for valley homes and businesses to help pay for a new $650 million pumping station that will keep ...

Drought’s threat to trout forces early stocking in Nevada

Wed, Feb 18, 2015

For the second year in a row, Nevada wildlife officials are releasing thousands of trout in the Truckee River a month earlier than usual to give them a fighting chance ...

Colorado mountain snow a bright spot for drought-stricken West

Wed, Feb 18, 2015

Snowpack in the mountain valleys where the Colorado River originates was only a little below normal on Wednesday, marking one of the few bright spots in an increasingly grim drought ...

Study: Groundwater pumping in Snake Valley unsustainable

Sun, Feb 15, 2015

Any future large-scale groundwater pumping in Snake Valley and adjacent arid high-desert areas straddling the Utah-Nevada line is unsustainable, a study commissioned by the Utah Legislature shows.

Will fracking be a boom or bust in Nevada?

Tue, Jan 20, 2015

Oil derricks and drilling rigs define landscapes across the West. But they seldom are seen in the dusty, wind-swept basins of Northern Nevada. Those days, though, soon may be over ...

Water woes among topics for 8 governors in Las Vegas

Fri, Dec 5, 2014

Facing dwindling water supplies, Western states are struggling to capture every drop with dam and diversion projects that some think could erode regional cooperation crucial to managing the scarce resource. ...

Company’s water conservation contest offers cash prizes for students

Wed, Oct 22, 2014

Las Vegas K-12 students have a chance to turn ideas about water conservation into cash, courtesy of ...

Drought pushes Lake Tahoe water level to a 5-year low

Fri, Oct 17, 2014

Lingering drought has helped push Lake Tahoe's water level below its natural rim for the first time in five years, cutting off flows into the Truckee River. The river has ...

Nevada lands $19 million to upgrade drinking water systems

Thu, Oct 9, 2014

Nevada is getting more than $19 million in federal funds to improve water infrastructure and reduce water pollution. The grant announced Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected ...

Colorado River water-conservation effort to begin

Wed, Oct 8, 2014

Providers of municipal water in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado are starting a conservation program for the Colorado River system. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday began soliciting ...

Videos

Dry Town, Dry Future
Dry Town, Dry Future
For 60 years, the town of St. Thomas lay beneath the waters of Lake Mead. ...

Slideshows

Lost and found
The town of St. Thomas was abandoned to the rising waters of Lake Mead in ...
Fighting an invader
A beetle’s selective appetite for tamarisk trees makes it well suited to fight the invasive ...

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