Colorado River Water Use Highlights:
Nevada receives the smallest amount of Colorado River water with its 300,000 acre-feet per year allocation. Southern Nevada relies on the river for 90 percent of its water supply with local groundwater providing the remaining 10 percent.
To manage its limited water resources, Southern Nevada’s major water and wastewater agencies established the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) in 1991. Governed by a seven-member Board of Directors representing each of the member agencies, SNWA:
- Leads negotiations on Colorado River issues for Nevada
- Maintains a 50-year water resource plan
- Constructs and operates regional water treatment and delivery infrastructure
- Conducts water-related monitoring and research and
- Operates a region-wide conservation program
Nearly all the water used indoors in Southern Nevada is recycled and reused, helping stretch Nevada’s Colorado River allocation. Mandatory watering restrictions are permanently in effect across Southern Nevada. These restrictions limit outdoor watering to one day per week during the winter, three days per week during the fall and spring and six days per week during the summer.
In addition to recycling indoor water and seasonal watering restrictions, SNWA has implemented one of the nation’s most progressive and comprehensive water conservation programs, significantly reducing Southern Nevada’s Colorado River consumption. Conservation efforts have helped reduce the community’s water consumption of Colorado River water by 25 percent between 2002 and 2018, even as the population increased by more than 690,000 residents during that time.
Through the Water Smart Landscapes rebate program, business and residential property owners are paid a cash rebate per square foot of grass removed and replaced with a water-efficient, desert tolerant landscape. Between 1999 and mid-2019, it has supported the removal of nearly 190 million square feet of turf, saving nearly 130 billion gallons of water since the program inception. Additional conservation programs include rebate coupons for pool covers, smart irrigation controllers, leak detection devices and water smart car washes.
To address unprecedented drought conditions and provide secure, long-term access to Southern Nevada’s primary water storage reservoir – Lake Mead – SNWA completed a third drinking water intake (Intake No. 3) in 2015. The intake pulls water from the coolest, clearest water in Lake Mead and allows for continued access to Colorado River supplies.
Intake No. 3 works in conjunction with SNWA’s pumping stations No. 1 and No. 2, which are expected to remain operational to a Lake Mead elevation of 1,050 feet and 1,000 feet, respectively.
A low lake level pumping station, which will further protect Southern Nevada’s access to water in Lake Mead, is under construction and will be completed in 2020. The pumping station – combined with Intake No. 3 – will preserve existing capacity and allow SNWA to pump from a Lake Mead elevation of 875 feet (above sea level).
Responding to drought
Nevada continues to collaborate with others in the Colorado River Basin to slow the decline of Lake Mead water levels, reduce the potential for Lake Mead dropping to critical elevations, and reduce the magnitude of potential water supply reductions.
These efforts are intended to protect against critical reservoir elevations that could limit water supply access for millions of lower basin water uses in the Colorado River Basin and disrupt hydropower generation.
As of 2019, collaborative efforts have increased Lake Mead storage and reduced water level decline by approximately 25 feet.