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Letter from Frederick F. Barker to the Directors of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, circa 1950





1948 to 1952


Discussion of the feasibility of bringing water from Lake Mead to Las Vegas

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Physical Identifier

Box 13 Folder W23-1-C Water Conservation - Supply from Lake Mead


hln000902. Union Pacific Railroad Collection, 1828-1995. MS-00397. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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To the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce Las Vegas, Nevada Gentlemen: As a result of almost a year of thought and study of the water problem in the Las Vegas Valley, implemented in the last few months by an agreement with the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, the undersigned is pleased to submit the following report as to the progress made in the attempt to solve the problem of supplementing the water supply of the area, with recommendations as to its solution. It was early recognized that a preliminary study should be made of methods of conserving the water supply of the Artesian Basin by the introduction of supplemental water from a source out side the Valley. Studies of the U. S. Geological Survey have indicated the urgent necessity for the conservation of the present water supply, under serious threat of depletion. Previous reports had indicated very high costs for water from Lake Mead by tunnel and canal. The building, during the War, of the 40" pipe line from Lake Mead to the Basic Magnesium Plant brought water for the first time into the area from an outside source. It is now available in sufficient quantities to service the peacetime needs of the Plant, with enough left over to serve the Valley. The study then turned to the following questions: 1. Was sufficient water excess to the needs of Henderson and the Plant available to be of service in the Valley? 2. Was it economically feasible to bring water thus obtained from the existing facilities to points of distribution in the Valley? 3. What would such installation cost? 4. How could it be financed? 5. What organization should be created to acquire, construct and administer such a project. The attached report of our associates, the engineering firm of Crocker & Ryan, based on a cursory and by no means exhaustive study, states that the present water supply of the Valley from artesian sources is being depleted; that the facilities of the water system at BMI are adequate to meet domestic demand and a small amount of irrigation water; nd that the transmission of water by a pipe line and pumping system is economically feasible. The report gives an estimate of costs of such an installation and consumer costs as compared to comparable areas over the country. The form of organization selected to administer such a system and under which it could be organized was determined to be a Water District, comprising an area roughly the dimensions of the Artesian Basin in the Valley. No authority in law existed for the creation of such a District. Accordingly, the undersigned undertook to assist in drafting legislation designed to accomplish such organization. With the hearty cooperation of the Office of the State Engineer, Senator Baker, and the Attorney General of Nevada, Senate Bill 63 was introduced, later amended in accordance with recommendations of Chapman & Cutler of Chicago, Bond Attorneys, and enacted into law by the Nevada Legislature. Simultaneously, aggressive action was initiated in the Legislature to permit the installation of the Nevada Generator at Boulder Dam, and to authorize the Colorado River Commission to negotiate with the War Assets administration for the acquisition of the entire facilities at BMI. This legislation was also enacted by the Legislature. The purpose of this latter legislation was to conserve for Nevada and the Las Vegas area the economic growth it had experienced in the period of the building of Boulder Dam and the industrial development during the last War, as a result of the presence of the BMI plant and facilities. It was recognized by all that an adequate water supply and cheap power would hold for the area the industrial potential created by these facilities. These developments gave considerable impetus to the plans of the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, as expressed in our agreement. The intervention of the State to implement the conservation of these assets to the State will place the supply of water in friendly and sympathetic hands and will be of incalculable benefit to the orderly development of the proposed Water District. At about the same time the United States Army announced plans for a permanent Base at Las Vegas. They also were concerned about the water supply for their installation. They have proceeded to make plans, based on the obvious intention of the people of the area to do something about the water supply and will undoubtedly be large customers for water. In the light of these developments, and with the favorable preliminary report of the engineers in hand, and with enabling legislation on the Statute Books, the following recommendations are made and strongly urged for adoption as a comprehensive water program. It is recommended that steps be taken: 1. To immediately form a Water District under the new enabling law and to organize and place the same in operation. 2. To exercise the authority of the District to con-serve the artesian water supply of the District for use and application to the interests of the District as a whole. 3. To authorize and finance a comprehensive engineering study of all factors involved in supplementing the water supply of the Valley with water from Lake Mead for domestic, industrial and irrigation use, in order to plan the construction of and to utilize the necessary works to accomplish the same. 4. To negotiate for the purchase by the District of the present water procurement and distribution system now owned by the Las Vegas Land and Water Company at the most favorable terms possible, as a nucleus, now on an operating basis, of the District's water procurement and distributing facilities. 5. To negotiate with the State of Nevada or the authorities in control of the water facilitites of the BMI for the purchase or lease of utilization in any manner agreed upon of those facilities, as a second acquisition of the Water District. 6. As the result of favorable engineering recommendations to construct and maintain a connecting pipe line with pumping equipment from BMI to points of distribution where feasible and where demand exists for the purpose of supplementing the water supply now present in the Artesian Basin. 7. To extend the present service and distribution system to provide water from both the Artesian Basin and the supply line to all points where demand exists and the supply is economically feasible. 8. To negotiate a contract with the Army Air Base, on a demand basis, to supply the requirements of the Base. 9. To supply irrigation water to such points as are economically feasible as relates to delivery costs of such water. 10. To make long range plans to further augment the water supply of the Valley by construction of such works as are necessary to irrigate Class I and Class II irrigable lands in the Valley. Obviously, a program so comprehensive in scope will require large outlays of money in acquisition and construction of works for its accomplishment. It is our belief that the money can be raised from the sale of bonds payable solely from the revenues derived from the sale and distribution of the water made available under the plan. These bonds would be retired over a period of years out of the earnings of the District. It is equally obvious that the program, as outlined in the order named, is essential to the procurement of revenue to service the debt and to retire the same. As the plan develops and debt is incurred, existing sources of revenue, such as the present city system, the domestic and industrial outlets now in existence and demand that can be serviced as soon as connected will serve to assist in the financing of each succeeding phase of the project. It is infinitely easier to finance extensions of existing works than to finance entirely new projects under estimates of use and revenue. Under the plan as outlined and following the recommendations as made, it is our belief that the Las Vegas Valley will retain the economic gains it now has realized as a place to live and work and as an unequalled recreational center. It will also retain and expand its industrial potentials and by aggressive development will add an agricultural economy to further assist in its sustenance and growth. Respectfully submitted, GARRETT-BROMFIELD & CO., By /sgd/ FREDERlCK F. BARKER, Manager, Municipal Bond Dept.