News Feature | December 5, 2013

Las Vegas Water Project Could Mean Emergency Restrictions

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

lasvegasreg

For the next several months, the entire water supply for the Las Vegas area depends on a single pipe and pipe station. 

"Nobody panic," the Las Vegas Review-Journal said wryly.

The situation arose when the Southern Nevada Water Authority shut down "one of the two intake pipes used to deliver water from the lake to every home and business in the Las Vegas Valley and Boulder City," the report said. 

If the pipe were to break, consumers could expect emergency water restrictions, officials said. 

"There is enough water stored in the valley at any one time to keep taps flowing for several days, and additional water can be pumped from the local groundwater table. But some areas would suffer more than others," the report said. 

That's because some spots have little or no backup supply.

J.C. Davis, the spokesmen for the water authority, said that if a breakdown occurred, Boulder City would get hit hard. In that situation, "we're basically screwed," he said in the Review

The situation is necessary because of construction on other pipes. Lake Mead, the water source, is continually dropping to lower levels, making this construction necessary.

"Without the work, the intake and its pump station could become inoperable if the surface of Lake Mead drops another 40 to 45 feet from where it is now. The improvements will keep the intake working even if the lake’s surface falls almost 60 feet, effectively buying the authority more time to get the third intake finished," the report said. 

It is not the first time Las Vegas took the risk of having only one pipe into Lake Mead.

"The community got by with a single intake and pump station for several decades, but the need for a backup grew as it began to draw more water from the lake and less from the valley’s groundwater," the report said. 

Problems arose under the city's previous strategies. "In the 1990s, before there was an Intake No. 2, an electrical problem shut down the one and only intake and pumping station, cutting off all access to lake water for about three days," the report said.  

The construction in Las Vegas is "one of the most challenging engineering projects in the whole world," according to 8 News Now. It is an $817 million project, the Republic reported

The construction is accompanied by rate hike proposals. The Las Vegas Valley Water District Board Of Directors is considering a rate increase for Southern Nevada Water Authority customers to pay for infrastructure improvements. 

"Recommendations include gradually increasing the infrastructure charge, which is based on meter size, and increasing the SNWA commodity charge by 4 cents per 1,000 gallons in 2014 (steadily increasing to 18 cents per 1,000 gallons by 2017)," NBC News 3 reported

If the rate hike is approved, an average consumer will see their monthly water bill go up $5 by 2017, the report said. 

For more on water rates, visit Water Online.

Image credit: "Las Vegas Strip and Bellagio Fountains at Night," © 2011 Marco Verch, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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