Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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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

How Southern Nevada could turn water deficiency into economic boon

Sun, Jul 27, 2014

On a ribbon of road 2 miles beyond Henderson, at the base of the mountains leading to Lake Mead, scientists peer through microscopes searching samples of water for microbes and ...

Colorado River Day message: ‘We need to conserve’

Fri, Jul 25, 2014

Following a cascade of increasingly bleak news about the health of the Colorado River, one of the nation’s most vital waterways, a collection of southwestern cities including Las Vegas ...

In drought-stricken California, some homeowners warned about brown lawns

Thu, Jul 17, 2014

On the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the threat of $500 fines, Laura Whitney and her husband, Michael Korte,received a letter from their city threatening ...

How dry we are: Nevada desperate for a drink

Sun, Jun 29, 2014

A 14-year drought continues to drain Lake Mead. Elected officials can’t be allowed to ignore the issue.

Mormon church asks Supreme Court to rule in water-rights case

Fri, Jun 27, 2014

The Mormon church, which has a large ranch in White Pine County, has asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal of a ruling giving the Las Vegas area ...

Las Vegas wins U.S. Conference of Mayors award for green initiatives

Fri, Jun 20, 2014

Sustainability efforts undertaken by the city of Las Vegas are now being recognized nationally. The U.S. Conference of Mayors today named Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Gresham, Ore., Mayor ...

Nevada among 7 states running out of water

Tue, Jun 10, 2014

EPA promotes global warming proposal to western governors

Tue, Jun 10, 2014

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency promoted proposed clean power plant rules to Western governors Tuesday, framing the plan as a way to deal with destructive wildfires and floods ...

Is Nevada a natural fit for emerging water market?

Sun, Jun 8, 2014

Officials hope to launch a homegrown industry around water technology to pump millions of dollars into the economy.

Desalination plants: The future of the California coast?

Sat, Jun 7, 2014

On sunny afternoons, this stretch of beach 35 miles north of San Diego offers a classic Southern California backdrop. But just across the road, another scene, unlike any other in ...


Dry Town, Dry Future
Dry Town, Dry Future
For 60 years, the town of St. Thomas lay beneath the waters of Lake Mead. ...


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The town of St. Thomas was abandoned to the rising waters of Lake Mead in ...
Fighting an invader
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