Importance of the Wash
The Las Vegas Wash is an "urban" river that connects the Las Vegas Valley with Lake Mead, our community's primary source of drinking water. The Wash carries more than 200 million gallons of water per day, fed by reclaimed water, urban runoff, shallow groundwater and stormwater.
Wetlands at the Wash serve as "nature's kidneys," cleaning the water that runs through them by filtering out harmful contaminants.
Importance of wetlands
Wetlands, such as those at the Las Vegas Wash, provide rare aquatic habitat for plants and animals in the dry Mojave Desert. They're also a great spot for bird watching, photography, outdoor classrooms and other educational opportunities.
While contaminants such as fertilizer residue, oil and grease get picked up as runoff making their way into the Wash, vegetation in the channel reduces the pollutants from continuing downstream before the water reaches Lake Mead — functioning as a natural filter.
Much like a sponge, wetlands absorb water during storms and then slowly release it to the surrounding area, decreasing the rate of flow and helping to prevent property damage often seen in flash floods.
Wetlands also decrease erosion, securing soils and promoting land stability. They provide natural buffers for banks by absorbing the impacts of fast-moving water.
Whether stopping during a long journey or making it a permanent home, people have sought refuge at the Las Vegas Wash from the harsh desert environment for thousands of years.
Archaeological evidence along the channel dates back to at least 12,000 B.C., suggesting a long history of use by Native Americans, a resting spot for travelers on the Spanish Trail, and even early settlers in the Las Vegas Valley — farming and mining near the Wash.
With an annual average of just four inches of rainfall in the Las Vegas Valley, water is a limited and precious resource. Because of this, the Southern Nevada community has adopted aggressive water conservation practices – largely fosusing on the reduction of outdoor water use by homeowners and businesses – to ensure the region has enough water to meet its needs.
Responsible water use will help the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee reach long-term goals at the Wash.
Facts & Figures
Southeast portion of the Las Vegas Valley, Clark County, Nevada
Approximately 15 miles (Las Vegas Wash-Sloan Channel confluence to Las Vegas Bay)
- Reclaimed water
- Shallow groundwater
- Urban runoff
- Stormwater runoff
More than 200 million gallons/day
See real-time data by USGS
- Habitat for diverse plant and animal species
- Wetlands' natural water-quality "polishing" mechanism
- Recreational opportunities for the public
- Return flow credits
- Reduced erosion
- Improved water quality
- Native vegetation restoration
- Wetlands expansion
- Invasive species management and reduction