Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 | 2 p.m.
Created and presented by Las Vegas Valley Water District
Supplying water to millions of people in Southern Nevada is no simple task. It requires continuous reinvestment and many knowledgeable engineers, operators and skilled laborers to keep it flowing efficiently. “We have initiated a rather large investment in our infrastructure renewal program to ensure that our ongoing proactive management activities continue to keep our water system as reliable as it is,” said Bronson Mack of Las Vegas Valley Water District. “As it stands today, Southern Nevada benefits from a young water system, and we intended to keep it that way by continually investing in efficient maintenance and water system operations.” Here is a look at the Valley’s water system today and the current initiatives.
How the water system works
Working with other agencies
“Coordination with the City of Las Vegas and Clark County Public Works allows the Water District to coordinate work so it can be done simultaneously with other projects. One example is the coordination currently taking place for infrastructure upgrades along Las Vegas Boulevard, which will include $19 million in replacing aging pipelines in the resort corridor,” Mack said.
Lake Mead supplies 90% of the Valley’s water. The water is pumped out of the lake and sent to one of two treatment plants. These treatment plants, SNWA’s Alfred Merritt Smith and River Mountains, supply up to 900 million gallons of drinking water per day. From there, the water travels to one of 54 pumping stations, capable of moving more than 1.2 million gallons per minute. These pumping stations cumulatively have 90,000 horsepower and feed 79 reservoir basins and tanks that store nearly one billion gallons of water. These reservoirs are connected to 6,500 miles of pipeline that distribute water to more than 1.5 million people in Southern Nevada. To insulate against water service interruptions caused by power outages, water is gravity-fed to homes and businesses.
The Valley’s water system is large, covering more than 300 square miles and about 2,000 feet of elevation changes. The expanse and elevation creates engineering challenges and requires the Water District to operate 23 pressure zones to move water to higher elevations. “Additionally, there are more than 120,000 valves within the water distribution system that allow areas of the system to be isolated for repairs that must be maintained in good working condition,” Mack said.
Recent infrastructure investments
“The Water District’s proactive repair, replacement and infrastructure management activities minimize the potential for severe main breaks, making Southern Nevada’s water infrastructure among the most reliable in the nation,” Mack said. As a result of proactive infrastructure management, the Water District responded to about 65 emergency water main breaks in 2018, less than an eighth of the national average. “Many of the leaks are found using advanced leak detection, allowing the repairs to be made before they become an emergency,” Mack said. In general, proactive maintenance is much less expensive than emergency repairs.
- More than $10 million in pipeline upgrades and replacements at Paradise Road, Elvis Presley Boulevard and Charleston Boulevard, as well as replacing more than five miles of pipelines and fire hydrants in central and eastern Las Vegas neighborhoods.
- More than $2 million in replacing meter vaults in public sidewalks, keeping the sidewalks safe for pedestrians.
- Nearly 2,000 backflow prevention assemblies were installed in 2018 throughout the Valley to protect the water system and the quality of our drinking water. Backflow prevention ensures that water flowing into a building or irrigation system does not flow back into the drinking water system. In the same year, more than 2,000 service lines connecting homes and businesses to the water system last year were replaced to ensure that small leaks in neighborhoods are addressed quickly.
Upcoming improvements to the system
The Water District is investing $600 million as part of its 10-year capital improvements plan, based on recommendations from a Citizens Advisory Committee. The plan includes the following projects:
- $200 million to replace and repair aging water pipelines
- $142 million in several maintenance, repair and replacement projects
- $126 million in new reservoirs, pipelines and pumping facilities
- $100 million for backflow prevention to ensure water quality
- $15 million to maintain and replace groundwater wells and pumps
In total, that’s:
- $374 million focused on repairing/replacing aging system components
- $126 million dedicated to creating new water facilities and expanding infrastructure
- $100 million going toward protecting the community’s water quality