There is a serious problem with the future of our water supply. New data shows the drought worsening, and proposed water projects falling short of the future needs.
The warmest July on record in Las Vegas with an average of 107 degrees and half of the normal rainfall for the month didn't help. This is a race against the worsening drought. A race against population growth and a race against running out of water in Las Vegas.
As the water levels at Lake Mead drop to half of what they were seven years ago, Southern Nevada Water Authority general manger Pat Mulroy says the time for talking about water solutions has ended.
"Let me put it to you this way. We have to assume that this drought will continue. Any other premise for planning would be irresponsible at this point, said Mulroy.
She convinced the water board to spend an extra $45 million for new pumps, doubling the capacity of the second water intake drawing our drinking water from Lake Mead. If nothing changes, the lake's water level will drop below the first drinking water intake in less than three years -- making it useless.
The water board also decided to aggressively move forward with piping in groundwater from White Pine County. In the fall, the Water Authority will hire a pipe designer, then buy enough land to store 50 miles of pipe so it's ready when the project starts construction.
Still, the shortages are likely to start in 2010. The first water will not come through the pipeline until two years after that.
"We have a groundwater bank in the state of Arizona that will be able to cover the first couple shortages," said Mulroy.
The news gets worse though. If nothing changes with the drought, Mulroy says without a pipeline bringing drinking water from sources other than Lake Mead, the equivalent of 256,000 people would not have water when doing this in 2010.
By 2011, the gap in water use and water supply would affect 404,000 people. The problem rises to half a million people by 2012.
"Understand that we cannot conserve our way out of a drought -- totally," said Shari Buck, a Water Authority board member.
"You have very little room to cut even deeper. You have to protect our reserves, and we have to develop a water supply that is separate and apart from the Colorado River," said Mulroy.
Mulroy adds that Las Vegas needs that extra water now to protect families and secure our growth. The need is heightened by the drought. The Water Authority data shows the drought is getting worse.
July was the warmest on record in Las Vegas. The temperature averaged 107 degrees, meaning more evaporation. It rained about half the normal amount giving us a double whammy.
Southern Nevadans have listened to the calls for conservation. Earlier this month, a report from the Las Vegas Valley Water District showed a savings of about $575 million gallons of water over the same period last year.
Usage went down after monsoon rains in late July and early August. New conservation ads start Sept. 1.
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