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Letter from Alfred J. Ryan 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. Pittman is an older name for the city of Henderson. Whitney is an older name for East Las Vegas.

Digital ID


Physical Identifier

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


hln000903. 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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Directors of the Chamber of Commerce Las Vegas, Nevada Gentlemen: At your request we have made a cursory study of the water supply problem of the Las Vegas Valley and of the feasibility of the establishment of a water district, the immediate function of which would be to obtain additional water for the Valley through the water-supply facilities of the Basic Magnesium Plant. A summary of the conclusions resulting from this study is set forth below: 1. The artesian supply which now provides all of the water for the Valley is being depleted by present usage and is entirely inadequate for future demands. 2. The water supply and treatment facilities at the Basic Magnesium Plant are adequate to meet all of the domestic demands within the predictable future and to supply a small amount of irrigation water. 3. The procurement of water through the supply and treatment facilities at the Basic Magnesium Plant for the purpose of supplying domestic water is economically feasible. This procedure will require an increase in the cost of water to the consumers, but the total costs will not be excessive as compared to water costs in comparable cities. ARTESIAN WATER SUPPLY Records indicate that for a number of years the amount of water pumped from the artesian basin has materially exceeded the aquifer recharge of the basin. In 1946 the amount withdrawn was approximately 150 per cent of the recharge. If this condition is allowed to continue, pumping of the artesian water will be necessary within the near future, and ultimate failure of the basin as a source of water supply is a definite possibility. It is obvious then that the amount of water drawn from the artesian basin should be limited to the amount by which the aquifer is recharged. If this were done, the present domestic demand in the Las Vegas Valley would exceed the available supply by 5 million gallons per day, or nearly 2 billion gallons per year. ANTICIPATED DEMANDS It is conservatively estimated that the population in the metropolitan area will be increased by 10,000 within the next 20 years. At the present rate of consumption this population increase would result in a corresponding increase in the water demand of approximately 6.0 m.g.d. Army authorities estimate that the increase in demand at the Army Air Field will be 3.5 m.g.d. The deficiencies previously mentioned take no account of the present over-usage of artesian water for irrigation purposes, nor of any increased demand for irrigation water. Another water supply problem which affects the Las Vegas area from an economic standpoint, is the fact that, if the industries using the facilities of the Basic Magnesium Plant are to operate efficiently, it is essential that they have a definite and satisfactory arrangement for their water supply. The 1970 demand for water other than artesian can be summarized as follows: Metropolitan Las Vegas Present domestic demand deficiencies 5.0 m.g.d. Domestic requirements for population Increase 6.0 m.g.d. Additional requirements at Army Air Field 3.7 m.g.d. Requirements at Basic Magnesium Plant 6.5 m.g.d. Requirements of Whitney and Pittman 1.0 m.g.d. Total demand In addition to artesian supply - 22.2 m.g.d. It Is apparent from the above table that the provision of water from other than artesian sources is absolutely essential to the Las Vegas Valley. WATER AVAILABLE FROM THE SYSTEM AT THE BASIC MAGNESIUM PLANT The water supply facilities at the Basic Magnesium Plant will produce approximately 35.0 m.g.d. The water treatment facilities have a designed capacity of 20.0 m.g.d. but will operate efficiently to a rate of 24.0 m.g.d. These facilities are adequate to supply treated water for the 1970 anticipated domestic, industrial, and commercial demands. As a result of the complete treatment provided the water will be free from hardness and will be of an excellent quality without the objectionable taste of chlorine or other treatment chemicals found in many treated waters. In addition to the treated water, approximately 15,000 acre-feet per year of untreated water could be made available for Irrigation purposes. It is considered that such an amount of water would be sufficient to provide irrigation for all of the Class 2 land in the vicinity of Pittman. METHOD OF SUPPLY There is indicated on the attached drawing one possible method of supplying water from Lake Mead, through the water supply and treatment facilities at the Basic Magnesium Plant to the population of the Las Vegas Valley. It is not intended to represent that this method is the only, or even the best, method of effecting this supply. It is, however, a possible method and, as such, has been used for the purpose of determining the economic feasibility of using the Basic Magnesium Plant's facilities to provide the water deficit. It consists essentially of bringing the water from the reservoirs at the Magnesium Plant through a 30-in. pipe to a pumping plant located southeast of the City. Water would be pumped from this plant in two lines. The first would supply the Army Air Field and North Las Vegas. The second would provide a supply into the reservoirs of the present city distribution system, owned by the Las Vegas Land and Water Co., and would supply the entire populated area south of the city limits. This method also contemplates the provision of distribution systems for Pittman, Whitney, North Las Vegas, and the populated area south of Las Vegas for the purpose of this economic analysis. No consideration has been taken of the facilities owned by the Las Vegas Land and Water Co. other than to determine the cost at which water can be furnished to Company at its present reservoirs. This does not imply that if a district Is formed there would be no value in purchasing the facilities of that Company. On the contrary, from the standpoint of unified operation, there would be a distinct advantage in having the district own and operate this distribution system within the limits of Las Vegas in conjunction with the new distribution systems outside the present city limits. However, the actual determination as to whether or not such a purchase should be made must be based upon such factors as the purchase price of the system, its present condition, and its cost of operation. Such a determination is not within the scope of this study, nor is it necessary in connection with ascertaining the feasibility of supplying the required additional water from facilities at the Magnesium Plant. In a similar manner, the supply system as laid out does not contemplate any irrigation other than that in the Pittman area. This does not imply that a district should not seriously consider the possibilities and economic feasibility of providing Irrigation water for the large tracts of irrigable land lying north and east of the city. Possibilities along this line should be determined by a separate study and do not affect the immediate problem. ECONOMIC ANALYSIS This preliminary and condensed economic analysis is based upon the following assumptions: 1. That the demands for the period from 1950 to 1970 are as set up in the table below. The demands indicated for 1950 are based upon the assumption that one-half of the excess water now being taken from the artesian wells would be supplied from Lake Mead by that date. Also that by 1970 the amount of water taken from the artesian basin will be limited to the amount of the aquifer recharge, and that all other water will be taken from Lake Mead. _Demand_ 1950 1970 Metropolitan Las Vegas 2.5 m.g.d. 11.0 m.g.d. Army Air Field 1.8 m.g.d. 5.7 m.g.d. Basic Magnesium Plant 6.5 m.g.d. 6.5 m.g.d. Whitney and Pittman 0.2 m.g.d. 1.0 m.g.d. Total 11.0 m.g.d. 22.2 m.g.d. Average demand - 16.6 m.g.d. - 6060 Million Gal per yr. 2. That the Interest rate for amortization and for sinking fund is 3-1/2 per cent. 3. That the economic life and therefore the period of amortization of the proposed facilities is as follows: a. Reservoirs and storage tanks - - 30 years b. Pipe lines and distribution systems - - 20 years c. Pump, etc., - - 10 years. 4. That the probable cost of Irrigation water is such that no revenue for defraying the cost of other facilities can be realized by its sale. Therefore consideration of irrigation water is not Included in this analysis. The following table shows the method of determining the cost of water per thousand gallons, based upon the assumptions set forth above and upon our estimate of the cost of construction of the facilities shown on the attached drawing. Cons.Cost $ Annual Cost $ Cost per 1000-gal $ Supply and Treatment (1) Plant Operation and Maintenance (incl. charge for water) Sub Total 106,000 300,000 $406,000 0.0175 0.0495 0.0670 Transmission Reservoirs and Storage tanks Pipe Lines Pumps, etc. Operation and Maintenance Pump Sub Total 600,000 750,000 50,000 32,600 52,800 6,000 25,000 20,000 $542,000 0.0054 0.0087 0.0010 0.0041 0.0033 0.0895 Distribution System Operation and Maintenance TOTAL (2) 600,000 42,400 20,000 $604,800 0.0070 0.0033 0.0998 Notes: (1) Based upon no initial cost for supply and treatment facilities. Annual cost shown is a sinking fund for replacement. If plant is purchased, the cost per 1000 gal. must be increased by $0.006 for each $1,000,000 of purchase price. (2) Cost for full distribution system for 1970 demand is estimated at $800,000. Cost shown is based upon average expenditure during period 1950 to 1970. With the usual allowance for Individual consumer services, reduction in cost per unit for large consumers and other normal operating procedures, it is estimated that the cost for this water to the average domestic consumer would be approximately 17 cents per 1000 gal. If proper steps are taken to preserve the pressure of the artesian water, the use of a combination water from the two sources will result in a cost to the consumer of approximately 9 cents per 1000 gal. The average cost of water to consumers in cities throughout the United States with populations of 20,000 to 40,000 is about 20 cents per i 1000. gals. A comparison of this average cost with the 9 cents set forth above does not, however, represent the whole picture. The present water usage in the United States and, therefore, the cost per capita at the rate of 9 cents per 1000 gal. will be at least equal to the average cost per capita throughout the country. CONCLUSIONS As a result of this study the following conclusions have been reached; 1. The present practice of withdrawing amount of water from the artesian supply far in excess of the quantity of aquifer recharge is materially endangering the water supply of the entire Valley. 2. To supply present needs and to provide for expanding population some source of supply other than artesian must be developed. 3. The necessary additional water can be supplied from Lake Mead through the water supply and treatment facilities of the Basic Magnesium Plant and that method of supply is economically feasible. RECOMMENDATIONS The following recommendations are set forth for your consideration: 1. That a water district encompassing the Las Vegas Artesian Basin be established. 2.. That the authorities of the district limit the amount of water taken from the Artesian Basin in a manner which will insure that the annual amount withdrawn will not exceed the amount of aquifer recharge. 3. That officials of the district institute a complete and comprehensive study of the possibilities of using water obtained from Lake Mead through the facilities now owned by the Basic Magnesium Plant for the purpose of supplying the additional water required by the Valley. Respectfully submitted, CROCKER and RYAN By /s/ Alfred J. Ryan -9-