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The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is responsible for managing the region's water resources and providing for Las Vegas Valley residents' and businesses' present and future water needs.
This includes establishing water conservation, sustainability and water-quality programs, acquiring and managing water resources and treating and transmitting water to member agencies.
To meet this responsibility, the Water Authority is involved with a wide variety of projects, acquisitions, and initiatives addressing various objectives.
Southern Nevada's water system consists of intake, transmission, treatment and wastewater processes. Over the years, the Water Authority has undertaken massive construction projects to ensure that these systems work as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The Water Authority has worked diligently to maximize existing water resources available to the Las Vegas Valley through conservation programs, water banking, and a Groundwater Management Program.
To address unprecedented drought conditions and provide long-term protection of Southern Nevada's primary water storage reservoir—Lake Mead—the Southern Nevada Water Authority constructed a third drinking water intake capable of drawing upon Colorado River water at lake elevations below 1,000 feet.
The third intake ensures system capacity if lake levels fall low enough to render SNWA's existing intake system inoperable. It also will protect municipal water customers from water quality issues associated with declining lake levels.
The construction of Intake No. 3 began in 2008 and was an enormous project involving a tunnel boring machine chewing through solid rock underneath Lake Mead and an intake structure two and a half miles offshore. More than 1,000 concrete truck loads were transported to the intake site on 143 barge trips.
Intake No. 3 began conveying water to the Water Authority’s Alfred Merritt Smith and River Mountains water treatment facilities in September 2015.
Lake Mead water levels have dropped more than 130 feet since the drought began in 2000. As lake levels continue to fall, the Water Authority is building a low lake level pumping station to ensure Southern Nevada maintains access to its primary water supplies in Lake Mead.
Development of the pumping station consists of constructing a 26-foot-diameter access shaft more than 500 feet deep. At the bottom of the access shaft, a 12,500-square-foot underground cavern is being excavated. The cavern (known as a forebay) will connect with 34 vertical shafts — each 500 feet deep and 6 feet in diameter — to accommodate the station’s 34 submersible pumping units. From the forebay, water will be pumped to the two water treatment facilities.
Paired with the third drinking water intake, the low lake level pumping station will preserve existing capacity and will allow the SNWA to pump water even if Lake Mead drops so low that Hoover Dam cannot generate electricity.
The $650-million project broke ground in mid-2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Nearly 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s drinking water comes from the Colorado River via Lake Mead. Once drawn from the lake, water is sent to one of two state-of-the-art water treatment facilities:
Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility
Built in 1971, the Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility currently treats most of the valley's drinking water. It has the capacity to be able to treat 600 million gallons a day.
In 2003, the addition of ozone treatment put the facility on the cutting-edge of water treatment technology.
River Mountains Water Treatment Facility
The River Mountains Water Treatment Facility began delivering treated water to the Las Vegas valley in 2002 and provides additional reliability and capacity to Southern Nevada's municipal water treatment and distribution capabilities.
Currently, the facility can treat up to 300 million gallons of water per day, but it was designed to expand to meet Southern Nevada's needs. In the future, the River Mountains facility will be able to treat up to 600 million gallons of water a day.
Current projects include repairs and upgrades to buildings, filter systems, large-diameter valves, and motors.