LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) was praised for its leadership in water conservation efforts on Tuesday as officials met to announce $63 million in funding for projects in the state.

U.S. Rep. Susie Lee hosted the water conservation summit in Las Vegas, bringing together officials including Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau and SNWA General Manager John Enstminger.

“So many times in Nevada we hear that we’re the top of the bad list and the bottom of the good list,” Lee said as the summit opened. “But we’re the top of the good list when it comes to water conservation, and that’s because of the leadership of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and John Entsminger and his entire team.”

Lee extended the praise beyond just SNWA. “It’s because of all of us and all of our efforts,” she said.

Big opportunities

One of the topics at the summit was a cooperative effort by SNWA and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. The agencies are working together on a California water recycling project that is expected to save 460,000 acre-feet — more than 10% of California’s allocation from the Colorado River. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre a foot deep — 325,851 gallons, enough water to supply two to three households for a year.

Beaudreau acknowledged that last year’s dire water emergency has eased this year because of record snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin — enough to restore Lake Mead to a third of its capacity — but emphasized the need to take advantage of the opportunity to solve problems together.

He said the good water year allows everyone involved to pivot into the hard work of “reimagining” a sustainable Colorado River system.

Beaudreau said the good water year has allowed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to “bank” 3 million acre-feet of water, aided in part by an agreement with the Gila River Indian Community.

FILE – In this aerial photo, a bathtub ring of light minerals show the high water mark on the shore of Lake Mead along the border of Nevada and Arizona, Monday, March 6, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher,File)

He said he was encouraged by what he has seen over the past months, noting that it’s an inclusive process. Tribes, water agencies and states are all at the table exchanging ideas.

Entsminger said Beaudreau was directly involved in making sure an agreement crafted in May “got over the finish line.” He recalled late-night phone calls with Beaudreau as the deadline neared.

Money to make it happen

Lee’s announcement of $63 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will bring funding for 13 projects across Nevada. The money has been allocated by the Bureau of Reclamation, and it covers some projects that don’t directly affect the Colorado River. Some of the projects have been announced previously, but this is the first time a Nevada list has been compiled.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a $1.2 trillion package, and $63 million is a small portion of the funds that are being spent on water infrastructure.

Lee’s staff provided details requested by 8 News Now:

  • Aging Infrastructure – Lahontan Project – Truckee Canal Extraordinary Maintenance Construction ($35 million):
  • Aging Infrastructure – Marble Bluff Dam Bank Stabilization
  • Drought Contingency Plan – Hoover Dam Butterfly Valves ($5.65 million)
  • Drought Contingency Plan – Hoover Dam Paradox Valves ($2.26 million)
  • Drought Contingency Plan – Regional Campus Xeriscape Project removing non-functional irrigated turf ($4.5 million)
  • Lower Colorado River Operations Program – Endangered Species Recovery
  • WaterSMART – Septic System Conversion Incentive Program ($1.74 million):
  • WaterSMART – Southern Nevada Water Authority
  • WaterSMART – Upgrade to Satellite Relay for Near Real-Time Data Acquisition (Truckee-Carson Irrigation District)
  • WaterSMART – Water Efficient Technologies Cooling System Upgrades Incentives
  • WaterSMART – Water Meter and Data Collection System Upgrade – Moapa Valley
  • WaterSMART – Water Meter and Data Collection Upgrade – Virgin Valley
  • WaterSMART – Southern Nevada Water Authority – Nature

Lee helped negotiate the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, noting the results that will benefit her state: water infrastructure, conservation and drought resiliency projects. Lee serves as the Colorado River Caucus vice-chair in Congress.

“As the stewards of Lake Mead, Nevadans are no strangers to collaborative and innovative solutions to address the drought and water crisis. This is why we are continuing to lead the charge in Western water conservation, and why we stand to gain significantly from this federal funding,” Lee said.

“I’m proud that this funding will benefit our exceptional water leaders, and I’ll keep working in Congress to ensure that they have all the resources needed to carry on their good work here in Nevada and across the Colorado River Basin,” Lee said.