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

The 30 people in this division know what, when, and where infrastructure is needed to support new growth. They conduct surveys of the city's infrastructure (see Smart Scanning sidebar) and handle land acquisition. The city occasionally acquires land from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which will help the city expand physically as the population grows.

Technology is key to remaining dynamic. Dennis Moyer, land development project manager, uses Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based Hansen Information Technologies enterprise software to track building trends through permit requests. The Internet-based enterprise software has cut the approval process for the 2700 permits in its system at any given time from as long as a year down to 20 business days.

Las Vegas has a 20-year capital improvement plan. This year, the city has $272 million set aside for capital improvement. A chunk of that (about $62 million) is earmarked for flood control and sanitary sewer projects. Private funds (via public-private partnerships) total $40 million, and $168 million is set aside for other projects, including streets and roads (read about a public-private partnership that helps preserve both water an history click here).

Public-private partnerships play a special role in filling the city's infrastructure needs. For instance, the Fremont East Entertainment District Improvements project, which started in January, is a partnership between the city, which initiated the plan, and local business owners to spruce up this section of downtown. It includes three blocks of streetscape between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street.

Neon-lighted gateways, neon elements placed in new median islands, decorative signage, expanded sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, banners, and bronze medallions embedded in the sidewalks all are the public works department's responsibility. The $5.5 million redevelopment project is slated for completion in August.

Staying Hydrated

“Our two biggest challenges are transportation infrastructure and water resources,” says Jorge Cervantes, deputy director/city engineer in Las Vegas. “We solve it by using high-tech equipment.”

Las Vegas grows by 4000 to 6000 residents each month, so public works is hit squarely in the face every day with two challenges: an increase in cars on the roads and water demand.

The city can't simply spin the roulette wheel on its water supply, and hope for the best. This is where the Southern Nevada Water Authority comes into play.

Formed in 1991 by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, the Big Bend Water District, Boulder City, and the Clark County Water Reclamation District, the authority addresses the region's water issues by securing water resources and designing conservation programs for member agencies, which pay to connect into the system.

“It's growth paying for growth,” says Kay Brothers, the authority's deputy general manager of engineering/operations.