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California Water Treatment Plant Could Benefit Thirsty Las Vegas

Andrew Ren via Unspalash

Someone drinking a glass of water in Las Vegas might one day owe a thanks to wastewater in California.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has offered to put $750 million into a $3.4 billion water treatment plant proposed for Southern California. In return, Nevada would be able to boost its yearly draw from Lake Mead by an additional 10 percent.

The new plant would produce cleaner water than current treatment facilities, allowing water agencies to wring more use from the Colorado River.

"It's going to take wastewater that they're discharging into the ocean, highly treat it, and return it, either to groundwater basins or for direct potable reuse to their customers," said Colby Pellegrino, deputy general manager of resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

"In exchange, that'll free up some of their Colorado River water," she said.

The technology is being currently being tested, and, if the project proceeds, it would be at least a decade before the new plant comes online. The Metropolitan Water District and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County are the lead agencies for the proposal.

"Ultimately, we think we could get somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 acre-feet of supply from this project," Pelligrino told State of Nevada. "That's enough based on water use for 40,000 to 60,000 homes per year."

She said that better treating river water is more efficient than building desalination plants.

"The largest desalination plant that's been built on the California coast is 50 million gallons a day," Pelligrino said. "This regional recycle water project that we're talking about is 150 million gallons a day."

Colby Pellegrino, deputy general manager of resources, Southern Nevada Water Authority


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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.