Las Vegas Sun

May 28, 2017

Currently: 84° — Complete forecast

— 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

To these pastors, saving the Colorado River is a divine command

Tue, Apr 18, 2017

Until recently, the environment was never a topic that Rev. Victor Venalonzo included in sermons to his congregants, who are mostly concerned about how they will pay their bills, find ...

Lake Powell to release above-average amount of water to Lake Mead

Mon, Apr 17, 2017

The federal government said Monday it plans to release an above-average amount of water from a major reservoir in the Southwestern U.S. this year, but it's less than many hoped ...

Gauging the Trump effect on energy, the environment and land in the West

Mon, Apr 17, 2017

On a brisk day in late February, we pulled off a one-way, unpaved loop and watched cattle dogs guide five cows across a flat basin. Weeks of heavy winter storms ...

Pat Mulroy on why 'Lake Mead is scary right now'

Tue, Apr 4, 2017

The Colorado River system supplies water to more than 36 million people, but it is being threatened by overuse, long-term drought, and climate change. People who worry about the water ...

Drought, demand push Nevada toward stricter well water limit

Wed, Mar 29, 2017

With groundwater drying up across arid Nevada, the state's top water official asked lawmakers on Tuesday to limit new wells drilled at rural homes in ...

Officials to stop California dam's outflow to clear debris

Sun, Feb 26, 2017

California water authorities will stop the outflow from the Oroville Dam's crippled spillway to allow workers to remove debris blocking a hydroelectric plant from working, officials said Sunday ...

Decatur Boulevard flooded after aging water main breaks

Tue, Feb 7, 2017

Not a drop of rain fell in Las Vegas this morning, but Decatur Boulevard at Bonanza Road was flooded after an aging water main broke, according to the Las Vegas ...

What Trump can and can't do to dismantle Obama's climate rules

Sat, Jan 28, 2017

President Donald Trump campaigned on sweeping promises to eliminate former President Barack Obama’s major environmental regulations and “get rid of” the Environmental Protection Agency ...

When will soggy California drop water restrictions?

Wed, Jan 25, 2017

Much of California has gone from withered to water-logged this winter, but the state's top water regulator is not ready to lift emergency conservation measures enacted during ...

Matt Damon says he'll pitch clean water to Trump

Sun, Jan 22, 2017

Matt Damon took the cause of clean water to the Sundance Film Festival, where he said he's hoping to pitch Donald Trump on the issue ...


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 ...