Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2018

Currently: 82° — 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 Tahoe records greatest March snow recovery in 27 years

Tue, Apr 3, 2018

Officials say Lake Tahoe is holding enough water to supply Reno for as many as three years. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports Reno Chief Deputy Water Master Dave Wathen said Monday ...

New normal? Drought expands across the Southwest

Thu, Mar 29, 2018

Drought is tightening its grip across a wide swath of the American Southwest as farmers, ranchers and water managers throughout the region brace for what's expected to be more warm ...

Could Las Vegas’ thirst one day be quenched with ocean water?

Sat, Mar 10, 2018

Southern Nevada’s population could grow to about 3.6 million in 50 years, sparking talks of the possibility of a water desalination plant on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, said ...

A hot, dry winter in California. Could it be drought again?

Mon, Feb 19, 2018

Atmospheric conditions that helped create the recent multiyear California drought have returned, leaving the state dry and exceptionally warm ...

Oasis in the Mojave, protected but at risk

Sat, Dec 23, 2017

The Amargosa, a slender thread of a river that flows through a parched landscape, begins with a few springs bubbling out of the ground in the Oasis Valley near Beatty, ...

Lawsuit seeks to block California desert water project

Wed, Nov 29, 2017

Environmental activists sued Tuesday to halt a plan to pump water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities and counties ...

Coffee tasting stimulates discussion on water quality as EPA cuts loom

Mon, Nov 20, 2017

The UNLV event was organized by Defend Our Future Nevada in part to illustrate the importance of monitoring water quality, a task that may suffer with budget cuts ...

People are likely cause of Earth’s warming, report says

Fri, Nov 10, 2017

Humans are the “extremely likely” cause of warmer temperatures observed since the 1950s, according to a legally required report recently released by the federal government. ...

Does the Colorado River have rights? A lawsuit seeks to declare it a person

Tue, Sep 26, 2017

Does a river — or a plant, or a forest — have rights? This is the essential question in what attorneys are calling a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit, in which a ...

U.S., Mexico expand pact on managing overused Colorado River

Tue, Sep 26, 2017

The United States and Mexico have agreed to renew and expand a far-reaching conservation agreement that governs how they manage the overused Colorado River, which supplies water to millions of ...


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