Las Vegas expanded water system will be inadequate : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Today: October 20, 2000 at 11:08:14 PDT

Even expanded water system will be inadequate, experts say By Mary Manning


Less than a year after opening a new pipeline that more than doubled the amount of water brought from Lake Mead to the Las Vegas Valley, the Southern Nevada Water Authority was told Thursday that growth is outpacing its best efforts.

The pipeline, part of a $2.1 billion expansion expected to meet the valley's needs through 2025, opened in January, and a treatment plant in the River Mountains, which the pipeline traverses, is expected to open in two years, increasing the amount of water available to Las Vegans to 700 million gallons a day.

But it won't be enough.

Water resources experts told the agency's board Thursday that if they don't speed up the expansion, there will be a water shortage by 2020. As it is, the old Pittman pipeline may have to be brought back into service to deliver water until new pipes are completed in March 2002 to serve the fast-growing southeast valley.

There's plenty of water. The problem, the agency was told, is building the delivery system fast enough to meet the demand from a 62 percent growth rate since 1990. What has caught water officials by surprise is the growth in the southeast and northwest parts of the valley.

In the next two months Southern Nevada Water Authority experts plan to come up with a list of specific projects to meet the needs, and the authority's financial director Cary Casey expects to have proposals to pay for the projects for board review in December.

The water authority is paying for its current projects through a combination of a quarter-cent sales tax, regional water rates and a reliability surcharge. The other half of the money comes from fees collected from developers to connect to the water system.

The water authority expects to collect $1.3 billion in the sales tax by 2025. So far, $63.2 million has been spent to expand the water system.

However, once finance charges, interest and other costs are added, the price tag for the projects jumps to $7.5 billion. That figure could change with speedier construction of vital projects.

The key question for water authority officials is whether growth in connection fees will cover enough of the costs to avoid a raise in water rates.

Water Authority officials downplayed any problems.

"That's the beauty of the plan," authority spokesman Vince Alberta said. "If we need to speed up construction, we do."

The water authority's board decided to submit a request to the state on Thursday for $380 million in bonds for the next three years, to make cash available for construction.

On top of growth straining water delivery, more people mean greater power use, both for homes and the water authority, which paid $40 million for electricity last year to deliver water.

The board approved a $130,000 contract for Rogich Communications Group, headed by political analyst Sig Rogich, for advice and representation before regulators and legislators as the state begins deregulating electrical utilities in the next year.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 20, 2000

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