Rethinking Big Water

October 21, 2013 — Las Vegas has long served as a stereotype of human excess: gambling, drinking, sex, all-you-can-eat buffets. But the latest chapter is playing out away from the Strip, in the part of the valley where two decades of booming development have swelled the population to 2 million residents who rely on a dwindling water supply.

Ninety percent of the southwestern U.S. city’s drinking water comes from the Colorado River, impounded behind Hoover Dam in Lake Mead. An extended drought has sucked the lake’s water levels down more than 100 feet since 2000, and the pipes that convey the lake’s water to the city may soon protrude into open air.

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