Southern Nevada will face additional reductions to its main water supply in 2023 due to a climate change-fueled megadrought in the Colorado River Basin and declining Lake Mead water levels. The community’s 300,000 acre-foot annual allocation will be reduced by 25,000 acre-feet (8 billion gallons) under the next level of federal shortage conditions.
“Last year, we used 242,000 acre-feet, so we’re still in good shape thanks to this community’s commitment to conservation,” said Colby Pellegrino, Deputy General Manager of Resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). “What’s more concerning, though, is the rapid decline of Lake Mead and what that means going forward as shortage conditions may deepen and the federal government may exact additional reductions to protect lake levels.”
The SNWA has prepared for shortage conditions by investing in progressive, world-class conservation programs and constructing infrastructure to ensure access to Southern Nevada’s water supply.
Chief among these infrastructure investments are a Low Lake Level Pumping Station (L3PS) and a deep-water intake, both of which allow the SNWA to draw water from the lowest depths of Lake Mead, the source of 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water supply. In addition, these projects help safeguard against water-quality issues associated with declining lake elevations.
Working in tandem, Intake No. 3 and the L3PS allow Southern Nevada to access water supplies below Lake Mead’s “dead pool” elevation of 895 feet—the point at which no water can pass through Hoover Dam to generate power or meet downstream water demands in California, Arizona, or Mexico.
Put into full operation in April, the large-scale pumps at L3PS can deliver as much as 900 million gallons a day to the SNWA’s two water treatment facilities. This allows the agency to continue sustainable management of the community’s water resources in conjunction with ongoing and highly successful conservation efforts.
The L3PS’s importance took on added significance when declining water levels at Lake Mead exposed SNWA’s first intake this past spring. Intake No. 1 was built in the early 1970s at an elevation of 1,050 feet above sea level. As water levels dropped below this elevation, the intake was exposed and its pumping facility was rendered inoperable. Fortunately, water treatment and delivery operations were not impacted because the SNWA was able to draw water through the deep-water third intake and begin L3PS operations.
Combined with the SNWA’s long-range water resource planning and ongoing water conservation achievements, critical infrastructure projects such as Intake No. 3 and L3PS enable Southern Nevada to maintain its status as one of the most water-secure communities in the desert southwest.
“While we’ve constructed the infrastructure needed to access our water supply, we still need to use it very wisely,” Pellegrino said. “Conservation is still one of the most important actions each of us can take to protect our water supply and ensure our community thrives.”
For water saving tips and information about conservation incentive programs, visit snwa.com.