Source Water Assessment for the Las Vegas Valley Surface Waters

S. P. Albuquerque
T. C. Piechota, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Presented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, December 8-12, 2003, San Francisco, California.

Description

The 1996 amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 created the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) with an objective to evaluate potential sources of contamination to drinking water intakes. The development of a Source Water Assessment Plan for Las Vegas Valley surface water runoff into Lake Mead is important since it will guide future work on source water protection of the main source of water. The first step was the identification of the watershed boundary and source water protection area. Two protection zones were delineated. Zone A extends 500 ft around water bodies, and Zone B extends 3000 ft from the boundaries of Zone A. These Zones extend upstream to the limits of dry weather flows in the storm channels within the Las Vegas Valley. After the protection areas were identified, the potential sources of contamination in the protection area were inventoried. Field work was conducted to identify possible sources of contamination. A GIS coverage obtained from local data sources was used to identify the septic tank locations. Finally, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits were obtained from the State of Nevada, and included in the inventory. After the inventory was completed, a level of risk was assigned to each potential contaminating activity (PCA). The contaminants of concern were grouped into five categories: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), synthetic organic compounds (SOCs), inorganic compounds (IOCs), microbiological, and radionuclides. The vulnerability of the water intake to each of the PCAs was assigned based on these five categories, and also on three other factors: the physical barrier effectiveness, the risk potential, and the time of travel. The vulnerability analysis shows that the PCAs with the highest vulnerability rating include septic systems, golf courses/parks, storm channels, gas stations, auto repair shops, construction, and the wastewater treatment plant discharges. Based on the current water quality data (prior to treatment), the proximity of Las Vegas Wash to the intake, and the results of the vulnerability analysis of potential contaminating activities, it is determined that the drinking water intake is at a Moderate level of risk for VOC, SOC, and microbiological contaminants. The drinking water intake is at a High level of risk for IOC contaminants. Vulnerability to radiological contamination is Moderate. Source water protection in the Las Vegas Valley is strongly encouraged because of the documented influence of the Las Vegas Wash on the quality of the water at the intake.