The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas

By Hal K. Rothman; Mike Davis | Go to book overview

Build It and the Water Will Come
JON CHRISTENSEN

At the end of the twentieth century, Las Vegas faced a water crisis: the city would not be able to continue to grow into the new millennium on its existing water supply. By the late 1980s, planners at the Las Vegas Valley Water District could see that even with the most conservative estimates of growth rates and the most optimistic projections for conservation, Las Vegas would run out of water soon after the turn of the century. Estimates as to exactly how far the water supply could be stretched differed, depending on the variables planners used in their computer models, but a few things were certain. Las Vegas was growing at a steady pace, adding roughly 5,000 new residents each month, year after year, putting it among the fastest-growing areas in the country. The aquifer underlying the Las Vegas Valley was already overtapped.

The ground under parts of the city was slowly subsiding. And the city was reaching the limits of Nevada's allocation of Colorado River water, which was negotiated in the 1920s, when fewer than 5,000 people lived in Las Vegas. With the 1990s looming and the population of the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area quickly approaching 1 million, with no sign of slowing, Patricia Mulroy, the hard-driving general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, knew something had to be done.

Western water has attracted a lot of practical visionaries, like William Mulholland, who brought water to Los Angeles, and Floyd Dominy,

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