Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 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 ...

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California site will let residents tattle on water wasters

Fri, Jul 31, 2015

California is launching a website that lets residents tattle on water wasters, from neighbors with leaky sprinklers to waiters who serve water without asking. California has multiple restrictions on water ...

California proposes historic $1.5M fine for taking water

Mon, Jul 20, 2015

California regulators on Monday proposed a first-of-its-kind, $1.5 million fine for a group of Central Valley farmers accused of illegally taking water during ...

MGM Resorts tells drought panel it's saved 2 billion gallons

Fri, Jul 17, 2015

Sin City may look like a lush water-waster as the state endures its fourth year of a severe drought but casino-resorts say its fountains and greenery are well-crafted illusions ...

How to grow a desert-friendly garden

Sun, Jul 5, 2015

With the Western drought continuing to make headlines, planting a dazzling garden or lush landscaping in the desert might feel wrong. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ...

EPA to North Las Vegas: Fix wastewater facility violations

Wed, Jul 1, 2015

North Las Vegas has been ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to address water pollution violations. The agency said Wednesday that the Las Vegas suburb was found in violation of ...

Nevada, Western states challenge new federal water rules

Mon, Jun 29, 2015

More than a dozen states are challenging a new rule that gives federal authorities jurisdiction over some state waters. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says ...

Lake Mead surface water level dips to record low

Wed, Jun 24, 2015

Federal water managers let the closely watched and regulated surface level at Lake Mead go to a record low overnight, before guiding it back above a crucial drought shortage trigger ...

Sandoval, other governors meet to discuss drought issues

Wed, Jun 24, 2015

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is playing host to nine Western states governors and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to try and reach a consensus on region-wide issues like the drought. Sandoval ...

A wet May brings rare good news for Lake Mead water projections

Mon, Jun 15, 2015

An exceptionally rainy month in Colorado that's been hailed by some as a "Miracle May" is providing a much-needed boost to the drought-stricken ...

Nevada climate officials prepare to tackle continued drought

Thu, Jun 11, 2015

Nevada climate experts say recent storms will do little to stem the tide of Nevada's long-term extreme drought. Several climate officials, water experts and university professors met Thursday at ...


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