For as long as I can remember, one of the most common questions and concerns my clients have when buying a home or even considering moving to Southern Nevada is “how is Las Vegas water supply?”
It is a very reasonable question, considering we live in the desert.
So when I had the opportunity to sit down with Bronson Mack, who is the Public Information Officer for LVVWD and the Southern NV Water Authority, I took it.
Here is what I learned.
The taste in our drinking water is that of calcium and magnesium that has collected from the waters long voyage down the Colorado river and through the Grand Canyon. Some people may taste a slight hint of chlorine in which Bronson referred to as “the taste of safety”. The minuscule amount of chlorine added to our water is what kills any water born pathogens and makes our water safe and drinkable.
Southern Nevada’s water supply, coming from the Colorado River and Lake Mead, is divvied up based on the Colorado River Compact that was written in 1922. Surprisingly, this agreement has not changed since then either. There are a multitude of reasons for that, but I don’t want to bore you.
- 90% of Southern NV water comes from the Colorado River.
- 10% comes from ground water.
There are 7 states (and Mexico) in the Colorado River Compact. There is the Upper Basin and Lower Basin referred to in the agreement. Nevada is in the Lower Basin with Arizona, California and Mexico.
- California gets 4.4million acre feet of water
- Arizona gets 2.8 million acre feet of water
- Mexico gets just over 1 million acre feet of water
- Nevada gets 300,000 acre feet of water.
- We are currently only using about 225,000 acre feet of water per year.
Although we are the low man on the totem pole, the biggest advantage we have, and always will, is our proximity to the Colorado River and Lake Mead, where our water is stored.
I went on to question Bronson about the water level at Lake Mead and our current drought.
Unfortunately, 14 out of the last 18 years have been considered a drought.
The current elevation of Lake Mead is approximately 1050 feet (above sea level), which is almost 200 feet lower than lake level in 2000. This is why we see the giant white ring around the lake when flying over.
Water is supplied to Southern Nevada from intake valves in Lake Mead that pump water back to the Las Vegas Valley.
Currently, there are 3 intake valves
- Intake Valve #1 is reaching the point that it will no longer be able to supply water to us; the water level will soon be below this valve.
- Intake Valve #2 is at 1020 feet, about 30 feet below the waters surface. This valve could become exposed and inoperable in the coming years.
- Intake Valve #3 is the newest valve and is located at the bottom of the lake. This valve will be our main source of water for the next 50+ years and beyond, according to Bronson.
God forbid we continue with this drought and the lake level dips as low as 900 feet, the lake would then be considered a dead pool, meaning no water could be released passed the dam-to Arizona, Colorado, and Mexico.
Even in this scenario, we here in Southern Nevada, would still have our water supply thanks to Intake Valve #3.
Here are a few other interesting facts I picked up on.
- 60% of all of our water is used outside for everything from parks, golf courses, pools, washing cars, man-made ponds, landscape, etc.
- 99.9% of all water consumption in our houses, businesses and all the hotels and casinos is recaptured and virtually equals ZERO net loss to our water supply. If it goes down our drains, the water is treated and returned to Lake Mead. Taking a 30 minute shower does not waste water.
Since 2002, more than 660k people have moved to Southern Nevada, but our water consumption is virtually unchanged. This is mostly a result of the transition from grass and landscaping that requires a lot of water to Xeriscaping (desert landscaping that requires much less water). Over 185 million square feet of grass has been removed from Southern NV over the last 18 years, the equivalent to 3300 football fields.
If you currently have grass in your yard and have considered converting it to desert landscaping, now is a great time, the Souther NV Water Authority is now offering $3/sf rebate on landscape that is converted to desert landscaping. Here is a link to the application.
Southern Nevada is now the poster child for water conservation nation wide. According to Bronson, no other metropolitan area/city has had the success that we here in Southern Nevada have had when it comes to our water conservation efforts and success. Water districts across the country have taken notice and are learning from our efforts.
In closing, I am proud to be part of a community that has been proactive in our water conservation efforts and I am relieved to know that the life we live here in the desert can continue for many many decades to come.
I hope you enjoyed learning just a little bit about our water supply. Please let me know if you have any questions. If I don’t know the answer, I will forward your email to Bronson Mack.