Las Vegas Sun

April 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

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 ...

Southern California water supplier eyes summer delivery cuts

Tue, Apr 14, 2015

Water deliveries to more than two dozen cities and agencies serving 19 million people in Southern California could be curtailed under a plan proposed by one of the state's largest ...

No more playing nice: California names, shames water wasters

Wed, Apr 8, 2015

California is done with gentle nudges and polite reminders to deal with its devastating drought ...

Amid drought fears, Sandoval issues executive order on water usage

Wed, Apr 8, 2015

Standing on what used to be the bottom of Washoe Lake, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed an executive order that will assemble a panel of experts to investigate how Nevada can ...

California governor orders mandatory water restrictions

Wed, Apr 1, 2015

California's governor has ordered the state water board to implement measures in cities and towns that cut usage by 25 percent, imposing mandatory water restrictions for the first time in ...

Lawsuit alleges Water District hid cost of failed water meter project

Tue, Mar 31, 2015

The Las Vegas Valley Water District covered up the true cost of a failed high-tech water meter installation project that “never worked” and led to errors in customers’ bills, according ...

Danger of drying out again sparks water project

Mon, Mar 30, 2015

In fall 2013, as a tunnel-boring machine drilled underneath Lake Mead’s floor toward a third intake straw, Southern Nevada Water Authority officials said they were confident the $815 million project ...

Water expert discusses actions Southern Nevada has taken and what we should plan for

Sun, Mar 22, 2015

Lake Mead’s elevation is just 1,087 feet above sea level and dropping steadily. Another 12 feet and the most severe drought-protection program the Southwest has ever seen will be triggered. ...

Ruptured water pipe on Las Vegas Strip fixed; traffic still slow

Wed, Mar 11, 2015

A ruptured water pipe that cut water to some casinos on the Las Vegas Strip has been repaired, according to the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The break was reported ...


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


Lost and found
The town of St. Thomas was abandoned to the rising waters of Lake Mead in ...
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