The Las Vegas Wash is a 12-mile-long channel which feeds most of the Las Vegas Valley's excess water into Lake Mead. The Las Vegas Wash is the primary channel through which the Las Vegas Valley's excess water returns to Lake Mead entering at the Las Vegas Bay. Nearly 97 percent of the water flowing into Lake Mead comes from the Colorado River. The remaining 3 percent of the water in Lake Mead comes from the Muddy and Virgin Rivers and nearly 2 percent from the Las Vegas Wash. The wash is fed by urban runoff, shallow ground water, reclaimed water, and storm water and acts as the kidneys of the environment, cleaning the water that runs through it. The major natural sources that feed the wash are: Duck Creek, Las Vegas Creek, Flamingo Wash, Pittman Wash, Monson Channel, Sloan Channel, Meadows Detention Basin, and the Tule Springs Wash. Near its terminus at Las Vegas Bay, the wash passes under the man-made Lake Las Vegas through two 7 foot diameter pipes.
Every day, about 100 million gallons of raw sewage is treated by the Clark County Water Reclamation District's several facilities, which cleans sewage water for unincorporated Southern Nevada. Roughly 90 million gallons of reclaimed water is released daily into the Las Vegas Wash, replenishing Lake Mead with billions of gallons every year. In exchange, we are allowed to take that much more water out of the lake, over and above our preset allotment.
Erosion is perhaps the greatest threat to the Las Vegas Wash, and therefore is one of the biggest challenges being addressed. One way to mitigate the potential for erosion is by placing erosion control structures (which are also known as weirs) throughout the Wash. In total, 21 structures are planned for the Wash. As of May 2017, 19 have been completed and one is currently being constructed. The weirs are constructed using steel sheet pile, concrete and flexible rock rip rap. As sections of the channel are stabilized, additional riparian and wetland habitat are developed. The weirs help slow the water, creating a pond behind the structures in which wetland plants can establish. Weir construction activities also clear acres of invasive plants such as tamarisk from the banks of the Wash. These cleared areas are then revegetated with native species. So far, 337 acres of land has been revegetated along the Wash.
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