Las Vegas Sun

August 30, 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

Sandoval hails court injunction on EPA water rules

Fri, Aug 28, 2015

Nevada lawmakers are hailing a North Dakota district court's ruling that temporarily blocks a Environmental Protection Agency rule that would have given the federal government more control over Nevada's ...

Nevada Museum of Art opens Lake Tahoe exhibit in Reno

Sat, Aug 22, 2015

The first major historical art survey of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra's infamous Donner Pass takes an ambitious trip through two centuries, highlighting the roles of Native Americans and railroad ...

Drought panel told there’s forage, not water on Nevada range

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Northern Nevada ranchers told a panel studying ongoing regional drought on Wednesday that there's a bumper crop of grass on the open range, and they want to be allowed to ...

North Dakota judge grants hearing on federal water rule

Tue, Aug 18, 2015

A federal judge in North Dakota has ordered a hearing on an effort to block a new rule that gives federal authorities jurisdiction over some state waters. Thirteen states led ...

Officials: Less chance of Colorado River water cuts in 2017

Mon, Aug 17, 2015

Wet weather in May and June prompted optimistic projections Monday from federal water managers keeping close tabs on the Colorado River water supply for about 40 million residents in ...

Lake Mead water level estimates due Monday

Fri, Aug 14, 2015

With Lake Mead's elevation hovering just three feet above a critical threshold that would trigger mandatory cuts in water supplies, Colorado River watchers are anxiously awaiting ...

Los Angeles covers reservoir water with ‘shade balls’

Wed, Aug 12, 2015

The city has completed a program of covering open-air reservoirs with floating "shade balls" to protect ...

Fearing stigma, Colorado contested Superfund status for mine

Wed, Aug 12, 2015

In Washington, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy took full responsibility, saying "I am absolutely, deeply sorry that this ever happened." She planned to tour Farmington and Durango, two of the cities ...

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 ...

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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