Las Vegas Sun

October 9, 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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In last year, Lake Mead dropped below 10 million acre feet for first time

Wed, Oct 7, 2015

The ongoing drought continues to take a toll on the main supply of water for Las Vegas. For the first time since the 1930s, Lake Mead ended the "water year" ...

Big ideas — and barriers — in confronting Nevada drought

Tue, Sep 29, 2015

Plenty of big ideas — and big challenges — have emerged as a panel of water experts crafts a list of action steps for dealing with Nevada's drought. The Nevada ...

Drought forum ends with call for more collaboration and fewer lawsuits

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

The governor’s drought committee meets Monday to start making recommendations to get Nevada prepared to handle future droughts. The state has had dry winters for the past four years ...

‘Third straw’ uncapped to provide Lake Mead water to Las Vegas

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

The intake was unplugged Wednesday to finish flooding an $817 million tunnel and complete a complicated and perilous "Third Straw" project to draw drinking water for ...

Southern Nevada will have access to enough water for decades, official says

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Southern Nevada will continue its fight to pump millions of gallons a year from rural Nevada, said John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority ...

Nevada governor kicks off 3-day summit to address drought

Mon, Sep 21, 2015

Gov. Brian Sandoval kicked off a three-day conference focused on drought and what can be done about it, telling more than 100 attendees Monday that Nevada has a solid track ...

Las Vegas water managers OK deal with Los Angeles agency

Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Las Vegas water officials have approved a $45 million "water banking" deal to send enough water for about 300,000 homes annually from Lake Mead to drought-parched Southern California. Southern Nevada ...

Flooding begins on ‘third straw’ to draw Lake Mead water

Fri, Sep 11, 2015

A careful flooding operation has begun on a so-called "Third Straw" pipeline to draw Las Vegas drinking water from near the bottom of drought-stricken ...

Judge tells new golf course owner to turn water back on

Wed, Sep 9, 2015

A judge is telling the new owner of a Las Vegas golf course to turn the water back on after residents took their complaints about the browning lawn to court. ...

State orders California firm to stop tapping Sierra springs

Wed, Sep 2, 2015

Armed with evidence captured by surveillance cameras, California regulators have ordered a business to stop tapping Sierra Nevada spring water that is later bottled and ...


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