With climate-change fueled megadrought continuing to affect water availability in the Colorado River Basin—including Lake Mead, the source of 90 percent of our community’s water supply—the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) continues to invest in critical infrastructure projects that assure a safe, reliable supply of water for the community.
These infrastructure investments include a new Low Lake Level Pumping Station (L3PS) and a deep-water intake, which allow the SNWA to draw water from the lowest depths of Lake Mead. This critical infrastructure not only protects Southern Nevada’s access to its primary water supply, but also helps safeguard the community from water-quality issues associated with declining lake levels.
Intake No. 3 and the L3PS allow Southern Nevada to access water supplies below Lake Mead’s “dead pool” elevation of 895 feet—the point at which no water can pass through Hoover Dam to generate power or meet downstream water demands in California, Arizona, or Mexico.
Completed in 2020 and put into full operation in April of this year, the large-scale pumps at L3PS can deliver up to 900 million gallons a day to the SNWA’s two water treatment facilities, allowing the agency to continue sustainable management of Southern Nevada’s water resources in conjunction with the community’s ongoing and highly successful conservation efforts.
Recognizing the potential risk of declining water levels in Lake Mead and the need to adapt to climate change, SNWA’s citizen’s advisory committee formally recommended construction of L3PS in 2014. While initial construction estimates came in at $650 million, the project was finished well under budget at $522 million.
L3PS works in conjunction with Intake No. 3 to maintain access to drinking water from the lake and protect the community from potential water quality issues associated with declining lake levels. Construction of Intake No. 3 began in 2008 and was completed in late 2015. A 24-foot diameter tunnel boring machine was utilized to excavate a tunnel under Lake Mead before connecting with an intake structure secured to the bottom of the lake with more than 1,000 truck-loads of concrete.
The importance of this critical infrastructure took on added significance in April when declining water levels at Lake Mead exposed SNWA’s first intake, rending its pumping facility inoperable. Known as Intake No. 1, the facility was built in the early 1970s at an elevation of 1,050 feet above sea level. Despite losing access to Intake No. 1 and its pumping facility, SNWA was able to continue delivering the community’s water supply from Lake Mead via Intake No. 3 and the L3PS.
L3PS and Intake No. 3 are key elements of a network of water intakes, treatment facilities, pumping stations, reservoirs and pipelines operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Combined, these facilities can store up to 1 billion gallons of water and pump more than 1 million gallons per minute through thousands of miles of pipes.
A stable and robust economy is dependent on a secure and reliable water supply. To achieve this, the community must continue its investment in its regional water treatment and delivery system.
With SNWA’s long-range water resource planning, the community’s ongoing water conservation achievements, and critical infrastructure such as Intake No. 3 and L3PS, Southern Nevada remains one of the most water-secure communities in the Southwest.
We’re all connected through water. Use it wisely.
For more information, visit snwa.com.