Water In Southern Nevada Research Paper Sample
Without water there would be no life. Without life, there would be no humans or human civilization. There would be no cities. In fact, Las Vegas grew out of the desert because of water. Man’s conquest of and control of water allowed the city of Las Vegas to not only exist, but to thrive. It is a large city in the middle of the desert. This begs the question of how Las Vegas, or the rest of Southern Nevada gets its water. This paper explores water in southern Nevada, the sources, how the water is treated, the state of the water supply, environmental conservation, and future improvements to the water system.
Southern Nevada primarily gets its water from the Colorado River. The Southern Nevada Water Authority states that almost 90 percent of the water is sourced from the Colorado River. The Colorado River is 1,450 miles long and consists of rocky mountain snow melt. Nevada is not the only state that gets its water from the Colorado, but other states such as Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, California, and Arizona source from the river as well. In terms of volume, according to the Southern Nevada River Authority, Nevada receives 300,000 acre-feet of water per year. This is equivalent to over 97 billion gallons of water per year. The Colorado River runs into Lake Meade which as the Hoover Dam. Lake Meade is an important area was it supplies not only water but electricity to much of Nevada.
Although most of the water is sourced from the Colorado River, a significant portion, almost 10 percent is sourced from groundwater. Ground water is important because it enables diversity in sources of water. If the Colorado River runs low during the year or if Nevada were to lose the appropriation of the 300,000 feet-acre of water per year then the state could tap into the ground water sources. The different groundwater resources include the Las Vegas Valley Groundwater, IN-state groundwater resources, Garnet and Hidden Valleys, California Wash Basin, Three Lakes Valley and Tikaboo Valley, Indian Springs, Coyote Spring Valley, Spring Valley, Delmar, Dry Lake and Cave Valleys, and lastly Snake Valley.
Nevada is required by the federal government, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, to make a water quality report every year. This yearly report is conducted at the two water treatment plants in Nevada, the Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility, and the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility. Although the reports are issued yearly, the water safety and quality is monitored around the clock. In general the water treatment facilities test 32,000 water samples yearly. In order to be fair in its testing the tests samples are sent to independent laboratories to ensure the water is safe to drink.
In terms of treatment of the water, the water is first treated with chlorine. The water is then piped to the Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility and the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility. At these locations, the water undergoes a process known as ozone treatment. The treatment uses ozone, which is a gas, to kill bacteria and other microorganisms in the water. Once all the bacteria and microorganisms are killed the water is sent through a series of filters. These filters remove containments such as sediment and other particulates from the water. After this stage, additional Chlorine is added. The chlorine ensures that no microorganisms grow while the water is piped into the residential, commercial, and industrial water distribution system.
The state of the water supply is generally good. But this has not always been the case. According to the Colorado Water Users Association, residential water use is at 60% of the water use in the state. This means that as population grows, the water supply will be strained in direct correlation to the population growth. Because of this, there has been several drought mitigation and conservation measures put into place in order to ensure a steady supply of water. Historically however, droughts have affected the water supply greatly. In 2000 to 2004, the water supply experienced its worse drought. This was because of the soil. Hardness and dryness caused very little run off and the water supplies dwindled. Because of this, mitigation methods such as restrictions on water use and fines on wasted water were implemented. This measures are necessary to ensure there the effects of future droughts will be minimal.
As Lake Meade serves as a reservoir, it is important that it remains full. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Mead’s water level has dropped significantly over the years. According to their testing, the water level has dropped over 100 feet in the past 15 years. This means that roughly 5 trillion gallons of water has disappeared. This was due to the drought, lack of precipitation, and general mismanagement of the water levels.
Because the Colorado River and the groundwater sites are ecological habits, the cooperative must take steps in order to preserve the environment. As the sourcing of water impacts the environment in a sometimes negative way, the cooperative takes mitigation measures in order to minimize this negative impact. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority its goals are to preserve the habitats for four endangered fish: the razorback sucker, bonytail, humpback chub, and the Colorado pikeminnow. In order to do so, the Lower Colorado River Multi-species Conservation Program was implemented over twenty years ago. This program aims to save these species from extinction by reclaiming many of the old habitats. The program has to this date cost nearly $626 million. The program involves a number of in and out of state actors, tribes, non-government organizations, private organizations and other agencies.
The future of the water supply in Southern Nevada largely depends on development of in-state groundwater and conservation of the Colorado River. Future developments include developing an in-state ground water supply of 134,000 acre-feet per year. This would be a three-fold increase of the current groundwater utilization.
The state water cooperatives would like to increase in-state groundwater supply because of the heavy reliance on the Colorado River for water. This would not only diversify water resources but also protect and provide a cushion against current and future droughts. The plan is to have this increased implemented by 2020. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Furthermore increasing water supply would help with future demand as the state develops and grows. Along with development of the water supplies, there are future conservation methods put into place.
These conservation methods include rebate programs. The programs aim to incentivize people to replace water intensive lawns with less water demanding trees, plants, ornaments, and irrigation systems that require less water. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority over 150 million feet squared of water intensive lawns have been replaced. With this, water consumption in Nevada has fallen drastically. According to the water authority, the water demand has fallen by 26 billion gallons in seven years despite an exponential population growth.
In addition to these outdoor measures, several indoor measures were also put into place. Technology has a way of saving water. Certain showerheads, filters, such as the WaterSense showerheads were put into place. These WaterSense, which is partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency, saves water. According to the EPA, the WaterSense heads saved the consumer $43 million a year in bills, to include electricity and water.
"Preparing for the Future." Water Sources. Southern Nevada Water Authority. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://www.snwa.com/ws/water_sources.html>.
EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 13 Feb. 2015. <http://www.epa.gov/watersense/docs/nevada_state_fact_sheet.pdf>.
"Water Quality." Water Quality. Las Vegas Valley Water District. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://www.lvvwd.com/wq/water_quality.html>.
"Nevada Division of Environmental Protection - Bureau of Corrective Actions." Nevada Division of Environmental Protection - Bureau of Corrective Actions. Bureau of Corrective Actions. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://ndep.nv.gov/bca/perchlorate02_05.htm>.
Parker Groundwater. Parker Groundwater Inc. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://www.pg-tim.com/files/NV_Water_Facts.pdf>.