Water district says bubbly water no cause for concern

Maybe you think it’s New Year’s Eve in July with all that champagne-like bubbly pouring out of your water faucet. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but one taste and you know it’s not champagne, nor is it any other white sparkling wine. Yes, indeed, it’s just plain tap water.

Still, those are tiny bubbles you’re apt to find in your glass, flowing into most households in Summerlin and many other sectors of Las Vegas. But if it’s any consolation, you can rest assured that it’s pure and harmless water you’re drinking.

The issue came to light in a recent copy of The Reservoir, the informative flier that customarily appears in the same envelope as your monthly bill from the Las Vegas Valley Water District. A tiny blurb in one corner of the flier talks about cloudy water containing air bubbles that gush out of your faucets at this time of year. The article then proceeds to solve the bubble mystery.

"Over the next few months, you may notice a change to your tap water’s clarity due to the presence of tiny air bubbles," it states.

But not to worry, the flier continues, explaining, "This is caused by the introduction of well water to augment Lake Mead supplies and meet our peak summer demand. Temperature changes within the pipelines can give the water a white or cloudy appearance."

And to make certain there’s no misunderstanding, should you and any of your friends fill your champagne flutes from the tap and attempt to offer a toast over some of the water district’s finest, the flier adds the following:

"While this may impact your water’s appearance, it does not affect water safety and will not harm household plumbing systems. All tap water delivered to our customers meets or surpasses state and federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards."

So much for the bubbly appearance.

"It’s really nothing more than trapped air in the wells," added Beth Moore, a spokeswoman for the water district. "The bubbles appear as a result of cold water that rises to a warm surface."

Water district literature further explains that "because water pipelines are pressurized, air remains trapped in the water until you open the faucet and release the pressure."

The technique is "similar to the effect created when you open a bottle of soda. The thousands of tiny air bubbles that form give the water a slightly white appearance."

One interesting part of all this is that the water district maintains 76 major wells scattered below the desert that we know as the Las Vegas Valley, and they’re pressed into service especially during the peak season of the summer months. The demand from these aquifer wells, which according to the water district can produce nearly 175 million gallons of water a day, becomes further accelerated during the present mother of all droughts that continues to plague Southern Nevada.

Each of the wells, which can produce from 400 to 4,000 gallons of water per minute, may be operating at their fullest capacity these days due to the meager amount of rainfall this calendar year.

According to Moore, many of the wells are in areas that are either below sectors of Summerlin or in close proximity. She mentioned that pockets of wells are in the vicinity of Rampart and Lake Mead boulevards. Others are in a section between Rainbow and Jones boulevards.

Roger Buehrer, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and a former public information coordinator for the water district, explained in a previous interview that the bubbly water is "naturally pure because it hasn’t been exposed to contaminants."

Buehrer said the peak season for water usage generally is between May 1 and Oct. 1, during which households throughout the valley are more apt to receive a blend of potable water. While much of the mix originates in Lake Mead, the remainder is the more purified groundwater.

He noted that it is common for "residents of Summerlin to often call us out of concern that their drinking water is cloudy." Of even greater interest was the outpouring of those tiny air bubbles, which are so comparable to the outpouring from any champagne bottle.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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