Water district signs off on rate hike for Lake Mead pump station

Las Vegas Valley Water District customers will see their rates go up in each of the next three years to help pay for a new deep-water pumping station at Lake Mead.

The Clark County Commission, sitting as the board for the valley’s largest water utility, unanimously approved the rate hike Tuesday.

The increase will begin appearing on bills in January and be phased in through 2018, when it tops out with an increase of almost $5 per month for most residential customers. Commercial customers and others with larger service lines will pay substantially more.

The increase is taking the form of a new fixed fee water officials are calling a “drought protection charge.”

The money collected will help pay for a $650 million pump station the Southern Nevada Water Authority plans to build at Lake Mead to keep water flowing to Las Vegas even if the surface of the reservoir falls another 100 feet or more.

This will mark the water district’s third rate increase in three years and its eighth in the past decade.

Henderson and North Las Vegas are expected to vote on the rate hike in the coming months, after conducting a series of public meetings.

The new pump station should take about a year to design and four years to build. It will be linked to the new $817 million deep-water intake tunnel now nearing completion at Lake Mead.

The reservoir has lost about 130 vertical feet of water since 2000 as a result of record drought on the over-appropriated Colorado River, which supplies roughly 90 percent of the water used in the Las Vegas Valley. Water authority officials say the new pump station and the fee to pay for it are needed even if the valley never adds another new resident, because the project will protect the water supply of everyone who lives here now.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.