New pump at Lake Mead could mean water rate increase

LAS VEGAS -- Water users could soon be paying more for their water usage. A $5 increase may be on its way because of a new water authority project.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority says the project could be the last resort if Lake Mead water levels continue to drop.

That increase could start next year. This is in addition to the money currently being reflected on bills for a current project underway at Lake Mead.

"It means no more Starbucks," said Kathleen Pedersen, a Las Vegas resident. "It's a bit disappointing."

The SNWA says it's need to pay for a $650 million pumping station to go along with the $447 million tunnel, known as the third straw, sitting at the bottom of Lake Mead which is almost complete.

"If we don't have this pumping station and the lake drops below elevation 1,000, we don't have water," said Bronson Mack, SNWA.

The water levels for Lake Mead are near record lows, hovering around 1,084 feet. If the levels drop 84 more feet and there isn't a pump, Mack says, the valley would lose out on 90 percent of its water.


Most of that water belongs to southern Nevada. If the water level continues to drop, other states could also be impacted.

"If the lake falls to elevation 900, that means the water is not passing through Hoover Dam and it's not being delivered to Arizona, California, or Mexico," Mack said.

County commissioner and water board chairwoman Mary Beth Scow says she's ready to vote for the project come January.

"Apparently it was an unanimous decision to recommend to us to support it," Scow said.

While everyone needs to do their part to conserve water, rate hikes are expected to pay for the pump.

"Well yeah, it's important to preserve our water for sure and to have clean water," Pedersen said.

This $650 million project would have cost only $300 million back in 2008, but the authority decided to wait because of the recession. As it turns out, if the pump had been built at that time, it would not have been deep enough. No one anticipated how far the level of Lake Mead would drop.





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