Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 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

Nevada Supreme Court won’t revisit Las Vegas water pipeline

Fri, May 22, 2015

The Nevada Supreme Court is sticking to an earlier decision that at least temporarily blocks water interests in Las Vegas from pumping new supplies from the high desert near ...

Reno water authority will need drought reserves by mid-June

Fri, May 22, 2015

Water flow in the Truckee River is expected to diminish by mid-June, forcing the Reno area's water authority to resort to backup supplies to provide water to homes and businesses. ...

California farmers propose voluntary water cuts

Tue, May 19, 2015

Farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta who have California's oldest water rights are proposing to voluntarily cut their use by 25 percent to avoid the possibility of even harsher ...

Feds project Lake Mead below drought trigger point in 2017

Mon, May 18, 2015

Federal water managers released a report Monday projecting that Lake Mead's water levels will fall below a point in January 2017 that would force supply cuts to Arizona and Nevada. ...

West watching California delta debate

Sun, May 10, 2015

What happens to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta matters in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver. From the eastern slope of the Rockies to the edge of the Pacific ...

California regulators approve unprecedented water cutbacks

Tue, May 5, 2015

California water regulators adopted sweeping, unprecedented restrictions Tuesday on how people, governments and businesses can use water amid the state's ongoing drought, hoping to push reluctant ...

Governor proposes $10,000 fine for worst water wasters

Tue, Apr 28, 2015

California governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday called for $10,000 fines for residents and businesses that waste the most water during the drought, as his administration rejected calls from cities to ...

What Nevada has done to conserve water may serve as example for California

Mon, Apr 27, 2015

In the face of a severe ongoing drought, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced mandatory water restrictions to cut water use in his state by 25 percent. A month after the ...

Lake Mead’s water expected to drop further into unseen levels

Fri, Apr 24, 2015

Lake Mead water levels are expected to continue to drop by as much as seven feet to 1,073 feet through July, taking it into a range that hasn't been seen ...

Water pricing to spur conservation ruled unconstitutional

Mon, Apr 20, 2015

An Orange County appeals court ruled Monday that San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates are unconstitutional, potentially dealing a blow to agencies statewide that ...


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