It turns out Lake Las Vegas’ top source is storm runoff.
Cody Winterton, senior vice president of Lake Las Vegas, said the lake’s community has a permit issued by the Nevada state engineer’s office to collect storm runoff.
The permit requires that the water be held for three days after being captured for the runoff to be kept. Winterton said the lake is allowed to be filled with runoff because it collects the stormwater just like a reservoir.
While stormwater runoff is the lake’s primary water source, it is not a consistent source for filling the lake. During some years stormwater will completely fill the lake, but other years it won’t amount to even the majority of the lake’s water, Winterton said.
“We’ve had years where 100 percent (of the lake) comes from our stormwater permit and we’ve had years where it’s just 30 percent,” he said.
When storms run short of filling Lake Las Vegas, the community turns to the city of Henderson to make up the balance to fill up the lake. While the lake’s community falls within Henderson’s borders, the Lake Las Vegas community buys the water it uses from the city of Henderson.
Because the Lake Las Vegas community is responsible for filling the lake, Henderson doesn’t police lake irrigation or water quality, according to Priscilla Howell, Henderson director of utility services.
“Lake irrigation is not within Henderson’s purview, the city does not control lake water or lake water quality, ”she said. “Lake Las Vegas takes in stormwater runoff, but the city can provide water to raise the lake’s water levels.”
The water used to fill Lake Las Vegas is not recycled back into Lake Mead or the Colorado River system. When water is pumped into Lake Las Vegas, it eventually evaporates and cannot be collected and used again.
According to Howell, the Lake Las Vegas community is the biggest consumer of water in Henderson. But the community’s high level of water use doesn’t just come from keeping the lake full.
Aside from filling the lake when stormwater runs short, Winterton said Lake Las Vegas water is also used for the community’s two golf courses and for nonresidential uses of the five homeowners’ associations in the area.
“Yes they are the highest water user, but the next seven out of the top 10 users are all individual golf courses,” Howell said, “so it’s not surprising that they’re on the top because they have so many different individual uses, including golf courses of their own.”
According to data from the city of Henderson, the city sold less water to Lake Las Vegas last year than it did in the previous three years, selling 936.3 million gallons to the community last year, in contrast to the city selling over a billion gallons in 2021, 2020 and 2019. Howell and Winterton both said 2022 and this year saw considerably more storm runoff than occurred during the previous three years, which Winterton said were especially dry.