by Andy Belanger, Southern Nevada Water Authority and Groundwater Foundation Board Member
Sixteen years ago, the Nevada Legislature authorized the creation of a Groundwater Management Program for the Las Vegas Valley. Even though the vast majority of Southern Nevada residents receive water from the Colorado River, local groundwater still makes up 10% of the municipal water supply. Groundwater users in the valley recognized that more needed to be done to protect groundwater for future generations. The purpose of the Las Vegas Valley Groundwater Management Program is to protect water quality and stabilize the groundwater level in the aquifer.
Citizen involvement is key to groundwater protection. The Advisory Committee for Groundwater Management meets regularly to oversee the program and ensure it is achieving its purpose. Our program has evolved to meet changing needs because committed groundwater users took the time to share their perspectives. All well owners pay to participate in the program and have benefitted from it.
From 1997-2012, more than 350 unused wells have been plugged and abandoned , 494 homes and businesses have received financial assistance to connect to a municipal water system, 1.7 million square-feet of turf has been removed by well owners, and more than 17,000 acre-feet of treated Colorado River has been permanently recharged in the Las Vegas Valley to help stabilize the water level.
Our program has benefitted greatly from our involvement with the Groundwater Foundation. Through participation in the national conference, we have learned from the successes of other Groundwater Guardians throughout the nation and brought back ideas to try at home. Groundwater protection is a universal responsibility that happens best when people are inspired to do something locally. The Groundwater Foundation provides the perfect venue to learn from experts and then act to protect this precious resource.