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What is the Wash?

Wetlands Research

The Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee (LVWCC) is researching constructed wetlands as a possible method of improving the water quality of treated wastewater, urban runoff, shallow groundwater and stormwater flowing through the Wash.

Constructed wetlands mimic natural wetlands and their ability to remove excess nutrients, metals and other contaminants in water by sequestering them in plant tissue and in the soil. They are formed in one or more basins containing water, saturated soils, and hydrophytic (water-loving) vegetation such as bulrush (Schoenoplectus spp.). These characteristics provide the environment for a diverse community of microorganisms that also aid in water quality improvements.

The LVWCC has implemented two constructed wetlands projects: The Demonstration Wetland at the City of Henderson Water Reclamation Facility and the Pittman Wash Pilot Wetlands. The Demonstration Wetland was undertaken to quantify the treatment benefits of a constructed wetland system for treated wastewater, such as the removal of nutrients and bacteria. The Pittman Wash Pilot Wetlands project was built to treat urban runoff, which tends to be higher in metals and organics. In both studies, scientists monitor the water quality and vegetation to determine what impact the wetland is having. Project managers are using the knowledge gained from these projects to help improve water quality in the Las Vegas Wash and throughout the Las Vegas Valley watershed.

In addition to the constructed wetlands research, the LVWCC has initiated an overall wetlands characterization study. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is providing grant funding for the study, which is being conducted by the Desert Research Institute (DRI). Rather than focusing on one type of wetland with one flow component, DRI is comparing the key characteristics of various types of wetlands within the Las Vegas Valley watershed and evaluating the range of functionality that might be expected from each type. The wetlands being evaluated include the two constructed wetlands projects, natural tributary wetlands and wetlands created by erosion control structures in the Las Vegas Wash. This study will yield management recommendations based on the feasibility of each wetland type and will help determine if, when and under what conditions the wetlands are able to improve water quality.

The LVWCC also supported the BOR’s floating wetlands study, which was completed in 2003. The BOR implemented the study in Las Vegas Bay at Lake Mead to research whether structurally durable floating wetlands could be created and used to improve water quality in the bay.

Las Vegas Wash Project Coordination Team • 100 City Parkway, Suite 700 • Las Vegas, NV 89106 • (702) 822-3300