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Keeping Las Vegas Wet

Las Vegas keeps growing, what scale of infrastructure is being built to keep pace?

On March 20, the Southern Nevada Water Authority awarded a $447-million design-build contract to Vegas Tunnel Constructors LLC… to build a third raw-water intake tunnel at Lake Mead, Las Vegas Valley’s water lifeline.

The additional straw is needed because lake levels have dipped 110 ft since 2000. Lake Mead now operates at 1,117 ft, or about half of its capacity. The existing water inlets will have to shut down if the lake level drops another 70 ft. The new intake, SNWA’s largest project to date, will draw water at 860 ft.

“It’s not going to add to capacity,” says Marc Jensen, SNWA’s director of engineering. “It’s insurance in case our current intakes become inoperable. It will also [provide] a better water quality.”

New Water Intake at Lake Mead Will Keep Las Vegas Wet – ENR

At what point will people realize that this is unsustainable. Is it a drought? Or is it global warming? If the reality is less rainfall and hotter temperatures, spending $447 million dollars on an additional intake will seem like a colossal waste of money in another ten years time, when they could have moved everyone to somewhere more sustainable!

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Much of North America is facing water issues, everyone needs to start conserving water, collecting rainwater and recycling greywater. Everyone has a right to water, but depleating water resources in a hot dry area and pulling water from other regions is not sustainable. Next they’ll want Canada to hand over some of their water, under NAFTA of course!

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.