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Southern Nevada Water Authority officials are considering spending millions of dollars on a third intake pipe to draw water from Lake Mead. The lake provides about 90 percent of the water used in the Las Vegas Valley They are considering a deeper third pipe, than the existing two, which may be needed to ensure access to drinking water if the lake level continues dropping.
Water officials said it is too early in the evaluation of a third intake to say how much it could cost or when it would be built. The second intake, which became operational in 2002, cost $80 million and took two years to construct, water authority spokesman Vince Alberta said.
"As the lake level starts to decline, the quality of the water starts to decline," Cyphers said. "The clarity is better at lower levels, and we need to find solutions."
The third intake proposal is "an idea that's being thought through," she said. "It's better to be prepared than to be caught short."
Reid said the water authority at least needs to study the issue because the continued emptying of the lake creates efficiency and water quality problems for the existing intakes.
The third intake would be placed deeper than both of the existing intakes. In addition to simply being able to get the water out of the lake, a deeper intake would also draw higher quality water from the lake. The top 50 feet of water in the lake is in what's called a thermocline, or layer of water that is warmer, thanks to the sun, and home to higher concentrations of pollutants and algae. As the lake level drops, the thermocline comes closer to the existing intakes
Water authority Deputy General Manager Kay Brothers said the staff would probably have cost estimates, a time line and location for a possible third intake prepared by early next year.