Launch Slideshow

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Smart Water

Smart Water

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    The Las Vegas Valley Water District's Distributed Solar Array includes photovoltaic systems at six reservoir sites, including the Ronzone Reservoir (above), and is expected to generate more than 100 million kW hours of power over the next 20 years. Photo: Las Vegas Valley Water District

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    Las Vegas Public Works director Charlie Kajkowski at the Fremont East Entertainment District Improvements project, a $5.5 million investment in pedestrian-friendly streets and new landscaping. Due to be completed late this year, the project is being financed by the city and Fremont East property owners. Photo: City of Las Vegas

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    Crews from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation use recycled concrete to reinforce the banks of the Las Vegas wash, which conveys approximately 165 mgd of treated wastewater from the Las Vegas Valley to Lake Mead. In the past two years, stabilization efforts have reinforced more than 23,000 feet of bank. Bank-stabilization enhances water quality, improving wildlife habitat and encouraging the wetlands of the wash to flourish. Photo: Southern Nevada Water Authority

Charlie Kajkowski is not a gambling man. A 34-year veteran of Las Vegas Public Works, the recently promoted director doesn't play around when it comes to planning for the growth of the city's infrastructure.

A professional engineer by training, Kajkowski has one major theory on how to keep Las Vegas a “future city”: build everything big. “We've never built anything too big” for today's population of 600,000 he says.

Reports suggest that Nevada will have the fastest-growing population in the nation over the next 20 years. About 1 million people already live in the Las Vegas Valley, which includes Las Vegas. His predecessors didn't think the valley would get this huge, but Kajkowski knows better.

“You can never build anything too big—roads, sewers, anything,” he says. “History has taught us this.”

For example, when constructing a 3-mile sewer interceptor in the late 1990s, Kajkowski (then city engineer) and his team knew they had only one chance to roll the dice. They built the interceptor based on anticipated rather than actual need for the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

Although projections showed an estimated flow need of 80 mgd, the city designed and built the interceptor to a capacity of 90 mgd at 90% full to accommodate growth in the northwest portion of the valley.

Instead of specifying 66-inch pipe for a portion of the project, the city opted for 72-inch pipe. Most of the project costs were associated with trenching, dewatering, bedding, and backfill, which the city would have to pay no matter what size pipe was placed. So upsizing the pipe capacity to handle larger future flows was incremental.

“The decision to build this infrastructure project with more capacity than normal projections turned out to be extremely beneficial and cost-efficient for the cities,” says Kajkowski. And that's why he keeps doing it.

The Bigger Picture

The city's master plan is the key element to making sure Las Vegas is ready for whatever the next generation brings. It focuses on four areas: streets and highways (adopted in 1981), regional flood control (1986), neighborhood drainage (1994), and sanitary sewers (1994).

These plans are fluid and are updated regularly, some every five years, others on an as-needed basis as the city expands. The engineering planning division of public works is dedicated solely to implementing the plan. Although they track day-today engineering tasks, planning engineers focus on the big picture.