Las Vegas Sun

August 16, 2018

Currently: 94° — Complete forecast

For Want <em>of</em> Water


— 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 OK for now, but water shortages on horizon

Wed, Aug 15, 2018

A vital reservoir on the Colorado River will be able to meet the demands of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest for the next 13 months, but a looming shortage could ...

Arizona commits to drought plan for Colorado River

Thu, Jun 28, 2018

Arizona water officials committed Thursday to reach a multi-state plan by the end of the year to stave off Colorado River water shortages, or at least lessen the impact ...

Boil water order remains in Laughlin as water tests continue

Mon, Jun 25, 2018

Initial tests show samples of drinking water in Laughlin are meeting water-quality standards but officials want to conduct more tests before lifting an boil-water advisory that's been in place since ...

Experts: 'Alarming' drought conditions hit U.S. Southwest

Wed, May 23, 2018

Rivers and watering holes are drying up, popular mountain recreation spots are closing and water restrictions are in full swing as a persistent drought intensifies its grip on pockets of ...

Careful planning, conservation helps L.V. delay critical water shortages suffered elsewhere

Thu, May 10, 2018

In the Las Vegas desert, experts don’t believe our local situation will mirror the crisis experienced by Cape Town anytime soon. The valley’s consistent water supply can be attributed to ...

The Strip might use less water than you think

Thu, May 10, 2018

The Las Vegas Strip only consumes about 1 percent of all water allocated to the state from the Colorado River ...

'It's pretty dramatic': Outlook for Colorado River remains grim

Tue, May 8, 2018

The outlook for the most important river in the Southwestern U.S. remains grim this summer after April storms failed to produce much snow in the ...

Arizona utility tries to end multistate Colorado River feud

Tue, May 1, 2018

Arizona's largest water provider tried Tuesday to defuse a multistate dispute over the Colorado River, saying it regretted the belligerent-sounding words it used to describe its ...

Low, steady flows from Arizona dam could benefit bugs

Tue, May 1, 2018

Any great fishing hole depends on the health and well-being of its bugs. In a stretch of the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam, anglers have been pulling out long, ...

How nanotechnology could be used to clean water in Nevada

Sat, Apr 28, 2018

Nanotechnology could soon help clean up almost all of the dirty water in Northern Nevada, making it safe to drink, Lance Gilman, the partner broker of ...


Dry Town, Dry Future
Dry Town, Dry Future
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 ...
Fighting an invader
A beetle’s selective appetite for tamarisk trees makes it well suited to fight the invasive ...