Southern Nevada and Colorado River

The Southern Nevada Water Authority was created because there was a need for the states on the river basin to come together and think of the basin without the political boundaries. Water has no political boundaries. Some say that without the creation of the Authority, Las Vegas and the western region would not have grew and the economy would not have increase so dramatically.  

Last week, I had the chance to listen in on a skype conversation with the recent retired Patricia Mulroy. The conversation covered part of her career and how the current drought in the west is affecting Nevada and Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Mrs. Mulroy was the general manager of Las Vegas Water Valley District, General Manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Governor’s lead negotiator for Colorado River. She started the conversation with the Valentine’s Day massacre in 1990 when a moratorium was placed on water in the region. The water scarcity in the area was so real in the 90’s, that the authority was created in 1991.

Today, 93% of waste water is reused and water consumption has been reduced by 30% even with a 400 thousand population increase. Mrs. Mulroy has been the driver for regulations and policies in achieving these goals. For example, water conservation through education and outreach as well as increase in rates and rebates for native plants. To date, Nevada has one of the lowest water consumption at 75 gallon per person per day.

Switching the topic to the current situation, Mrs. Mulroy focus on the storage area at Lake Mead. Currently Mead has an elevation of 1100ft. At 1050ft, Hoover Dam will not generate electricity and at 890ft, Mead is at Deadpool. To plan for the worse, Southern Nevada has now two intake pipes in Mead at 1050 and 1000ft. There is a project that is drilling for an intake at 850ft to prepare for the worse.

Asking Mrs. Mulroy about what the future problems can be. She replied. How to keep the current standard of living while still providing water for all and a lasting supply. Technologies such as forward osmosis and desalination of water can help. Nuclear Power Plants will help with the energy needed in desalination. Even proposals such as pipeline from the pacific up 1000ft elevation to Vegas were considered.

Mrs. Mulroy also talked about climate change. She said, “It is no longer climate change but extreme weather.” Everyone is looking for the federal government to solve the problem. But municipals and locals need to know that even without federal government’s help, the problems will be there and municipals need to think of the worst case.


About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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