Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Greg Hise

Second Committee Member

Andrew Kirk

Third Committee Member

Eugene Moehring

Fourth Committee Member

David Tanenhaus

Fifth Committee Member

Thomas Piechota

Number of Pages



Despite its status as the nation's driest metropolis, the Las Vegas metropolitan area's water supply is limited by law and not by local environmental conditions. The federal government allocates 300,000 acre-feet of water per year to the metro-area. During the 1980s the Las Vegas metro-area grew from 400,000 people to 750,000, stressing this allocation. During that same period, the metro-area's water regime consisted of disunity and competition among four separate water agencies, as well as a combination of complex and sometimes competing city, county, state, and interstate laws. This regime contributed to an additional increase in water consumption rates beyond those associated with population growth. In 1991, metro water managers responded to these challenges by creating the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), an agency that centralized previously separate water agencies into a single organization, one that possessed legal authority to implement conservation policy throughout the metropolitan region and to engage in interstate political negotiations over acquisition of new water resources.

My study of the SNWA highlights a geopolitical condition many American metropolitan areas face in the twenty-first century: water management and resource acquisition occurs at a geographical scale that extends beyond city, county, and even state boundaries. This reality necessitates both intra and inter-state political interaction, something the SNWA experience demonstrates. Unique to the Las Vegas metro-area, is the degree to which interstate and federal laws influence SNWA water policy. Reliance on the Colorado River required adherence to city, county, state, and interstate laws. During a four-year period of political consolidation, the SNWA absorbed local, county, and state level power, a combination that enabled it to negotiate political boundaries within Nevada, and the legal authority to engage other Basin state governments. The political composition of the SNWA has made it an effective body to navigate an era of limits, in which metropolitan areas face challenges of increased population growth, limited water supply, and complex legal systems.


Fresh water – Law and legislation; Law of the River; Mulroy; Patricia; Nevada – Las Vegas; North America – Colorado River; Rivers – Regulation; SNWA; Southern Nevada Water Authority; Water; Water – Political aspects; Water supply – Law and legislation


History | Political History | Political Science | United States History | Water Law | Water Resource Management

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit

Available for download on Wednesday, December 15, 2027