About the Las Vegas Wash

September 11, 2019

With years of dedicated
research and careful restoration the Las Vegas Wash continues
to thrive as an important component of our water system. A lot goes on here at the Wash. The SNWA monitors water
quality, conducts bird and fish surveys,
plants new vegetation, and coordinates public
outreach, all to ensure the Wash is a shared
and protected resource. The Las Vegas Wash
is an urban river that serves as the final
link in our water supply and is the primary drainage
channel for the entire Las Vegas Valley. Each day, the Wash captures
about 200 million gallons of highly treated effluent,
urban run off, and shallow ground
water as well as run off from occasional storms. It acts as a natural
filter as it channels the water to Lake
Mead, Southern Nevada’s primary source
of drinking water. Wetlands help filter
sediment and other impurities from its flows. The abundant natural
resources of the Wash have drawn people to its
banks for thousands of years but flows within the channel
increase significantly as Southern Nevada’s population
grew in the 20th century, causing erosion
that drained wetlands and threatened wildlife
habitat, water quality, and water waste infrastructure. The Las Vegas Wash coordination
committee was formed in 1998 to help restore
the suffering waterway. The committee
identified areas of focus and developed recommendations
to stabilize the Wash. Thanks to years of hard
work by the committee and community volunteers
the Wash is thriving today. The Las Vegas Wash is one
of those great success stories and one that the Wash team
is incredibly proud of. Historically you had
this incredible resource that brought in hundreds
of species of wildlife in the middle of the
desert including people like the
indigenous Southern Piu. Over time as Las Vegas
was settled and developed and grown out the
wetlands degraded and we lost a lot of those
resources that we used to have. Over the last 20 years the
Las Vegas Wash coordination committee has worked hard
and we have reestablished those wetlands. We’ve stabilized the sediment
and stopped the erosion and we’ve increased water
quality and we’ve created a wonderful resource for wildlife
and for local Las Vegans. CRYSTAL: The Wash team
attributes some of the success to the construction of
weirs, dam like structures that slow the flow of
water and control erosion along the bed of the Wash. Work is underway to expand
the historic lateral weir and complete the
Sunrise Mountain weir, the last of 21 planned weirs. To further ensure water
quality SNWA hydrologists routinely collect water
samples from strategic sites in the mainstream Wash. The samples are then analyzed
for potential impacts on water quality. Hydrologists also can monitor
water quality in real time. We have several programs
monitoring water quality in the Wash and tributaries
and one of the programs is the real time water quality
and monitoring program. Basically we use multiple
water quality probes leaving the Wash 24 hours
a day and seven days a week and then those
multiple probes can record four different
water quality parameters including temperature,
PH, specific conductance, and dissolved oxygen. So that program gives us
real time water quality data. Every 20 minutes they
record a set of data. CRYSTAL: By enhancing the
Wash the Las Vegas Wash coordination committee has
created a variety of habitats for wildlife. The Las Vegas Wash
wildlife management plan establishes three objectives,
conserve native species, protect and
enhance their habitats, and increase environmental
awareness of these resources in the community. Biologists conduct wildlife
surveys along the Wash in support of the plan and
for regulatory compliance related to the
Endangered Species Act. Public outreach
and community involvement are key components of the
Las Vegas Wash’s success. Hundreds of volunteers
labor twice a year to help restore wildlife habitat and control erosion by
stabilizing soils. The Las Vegas Wash
coordination committee organizes green up planting
events twice a year. To date, more than 11,500
volunteers have planted about 115,000
native trees and shrubs across nearly 265 acres. The Las Vegas Wash is a
place where you can hike, bike, and walk on miles
of designated trails. In the summer time you can
cool off at the Wetlands Park Nature Center and catch
striking views of the city from almost
anywhere in the park. For more information
about the Las Vegas Wash and volunteer opportunities
visit Reporting for Water
Ways, I’m Crystal Zuelke.

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