Las Vegas Sun

March 23, 2019

Currently: 58° — Complete forecast

For Want <em>of</em> Water

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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

U.S. official declares drought plan done for Colorado River

Tue, Mar 19, 2019

Seven states that rely on a major waterway in the U.S. West have finished a yearslong effort to create a plan to protect the Colorado River amid a ...

A massive aquifer lies beneath the Mojave Desert. Could it help solve California’s water problem?

Tue, Mar 5, 2019

The landscape here is more Martian than Earthly, rust and tan plains that rise in the distance to form the Old Woman Mountains to the east and the Bristols and ...

Plan to protect the Colorado River still isn't done. Now what?

Tue, Mar 5, 2019

Another federal deadline passed Monday for seven states in the U.S. West to wrap up work on a plan to ensure the drought-stricken Colorado River can ...

Plan to combat drought in West hinges on California, Arizona

Wed, Feb 27, 2019

A California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to water from a major Western river is using its power to demand federal funds to restore the state's largest lake, hoping ...

Officials: Arizona will miss U.S. deadline for key water plan

Tue, Feb 19, 2019

Arizona won't have all the pieces of a Colorado River drought plan finished by the federal government's deadline to finalize protections for water used by ...

Why Arizona is only state yet to OK Colorado River plan

Tue, Jan 29, 2019

Arizona is facing a deadline to become the last of several states in the U.S. West to approve a plan ensuring shared water from the Colorado River doesn't dry up ...

With spring approaching, don't forget about water conservation

Sun, Jan 27, 2019

Fortunately, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has had strategic initiatives in place since 2002 to keep up with the area’s rapidly growing population.

Nevada has long taken conservation measures for success in drought contingency plan

Sun, Jan 6, 2019

Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a soon-to-be-finalized drought plan for states that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River ...

EPA approves nearly $21 million in Nevada water grants

Tue, Dec 18, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded nearly $21 million in grants for drinking and wastewater infrastructure improvements in Nevada, including upgrading 87,000 water meters to ...

Southwest states eye drought plans ahead of expected Lake Mead shortages

Wed, Dec 12, 2018

Colorado River water users will meet in Las Vegas this week as states lay out plans to combat expected shortages at Lake Mead amid a nearly 20-year drought ...

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 ...