System Dynamics Model to Forecast Salinity Load to the Colorado River Due to Urbanization within the Las Vegas Valley

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Science of the Total Environment





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This study evaluates the impact of urban growth in the Las Vegas Valley (LVV), Nevada, USA on salinity of the Colorado River. In the past thirty eight years the LVV population has grown from 273,288 (1970) to 1,986,146 (2008). The wastewater effluents and runoff from the valley are diverted back to the Colorado River through the Las Vegas Wash (LVW). With the growth of the valley, the salinity released from urban areas has increased the level of TDS in the wastewater effluents, ultimately increasing the TDS in the Colorado River. The increased usage of water softeners in residential and commercial locations is a major contributor of TDS in the wastewater effluents.

Controlling TDS release to the Colorado River is important because of the 1944 Treaty signed between the USA and Mexico. In addition, the agriculture salinity damage cost for the Colorado River has been estimated to be more than $306 a million per year using 2004 salinity levels. With the expected growth of LVV in coming years the TDS release into Lake Mead will increase over time. For this purpose, it is important to investigate future TDS release into the Colorado in anticipation of potential TDS reducing measures to be adopted. In this research, a dynamic simulation model was developed using system dynamics modeling to carry out water and TDS mass balances over the entire LVV. The dynamic model output agreed with historic data with an average error of 2%. Forecasts revealed that conservation efforts can reduce TDS load by 16% in the year 2035 when compared to the current trend. If total population using water softeners can be limited to 10% in the year 2035, from the current 30% usage, TDS load in the LVW can be reduced by 7%.


Cities and towns – Growth; Nevada – Las Vegas Valley; North America – Colorado River; Salinity control; System dynamics; Total dissolved solids; Urbanization; Water conservation; Water quality; Water salinization


Desert Ecology | Environmental Engineering | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Sciences | Fresh Water Studies | Natural Resources and Conservation | Water Resource Management




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