Facts about our water
Before the Las Vegas Valley Water District delivers your tap water, we test your water rigorously to ensure it meets strict Safe Drinking Water Act standards. While the Las Vegas Valley's water supply is well within the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, we want you to know details about how we protect your water and what we monitor.
As you’re reading about the topics below, it may be helpful to keep the following real-world comparisons in mind:
- Part per billion: Equivalent to one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool
- Part per million: Equivalent to one cup of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool
Lead and copper
The Las Vegas Valley Water District actively monitors for lead and copper in the drinking water supply.
The Environmental Protection Agency has set an “action level” for lead at 15 ppb, meaning that if lead is detected at 15 parts per billion or more in a water supply, action needs to be taken.
In 2016, levels of lead were detected at less than 3 parts per billion (ppb), well below levels that are determined to be a possible health concern.
How does lead get into water?
Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing.
The Environmental Protection Agency cites brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and kitchen/bath fixtures with lead solder as the most common problem, as they can allow lead to enter the water, especially hot water. In addition, lead service pipes can sometimes corrode, causing lead to get into the water supply. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder.
Southern Nevada's water infrastructure does not employ lead service lines or other lead-based components, and local water providers maintain robust corrosion-control programs developed in coordination with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
The Water District is responsible for providing high-quality drinking water but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components.
How can I minimize the potential of exposure to lead in tap water?
When your faucets have gone unused for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.
If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, you may wish to have your water tested by a private laboratory.
Elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.
What about copper?
In addition to being naturally present in the environment, copper can work its way into water from copper pipes in household plumbing. The action level for copper is triggered if the level of copper is more than 1.3 parts per million. In 2016, levels of copper in our water supply were detected at about 0.8 ppm.
If water hasn’t been used for more than six hours—overnight, for example—you can clear copper from the tap by letting the cold water faucet run for 30 to 60 seconds.
Water is considered "hard" when it contains a high level of dissolved minerals.
In the Las Vegas Valley, the two nontoxic minerals that cause our hard water are calcium and magnesium. They're carried into Lake Mead from the mineral-dense Colorado River and do not pose a health risk.
The hardness of Las Vegas Valley Water District water is 283 parts per million or 16.6 grains per gallon, categorized as "very hard."
Hard water can make it difficult to produce a lather (or suds) while washing.
It also can leave a chalky build-up on fixtures and spots on glassware. These effects are solely aesthetic—they don't affect your health.
There are several ways to reduce problems associated with hard water, including the use of:
- Dishwasher rinse aids
- Laundry detergents that contain water-softening agents
- Bath salts such as Epsom salts
- Lime- or mineral-dissolving household cleaners
Deposits on fixtures and countertops can be prevented by wiping surfaces dry. Mineral residue on surfaces only occurs when water is allowed to evaporate.
Household systems reduce the hardness of the water by replacing calcium and magnesium with sodium or potassium, depending on the type of softener.
Installation of a water softener, however, is strictly an issue of personal preference and should be done only out of aesthetic concerns, not because of fears about water quality.
Advantages of water softeners include improved "feel" on skin when bathing, longer life of appliances and reduction of water spots and deposits.
Disadvantages include potential health risks from sodium intake, harm to houseplants due to elevated salt content and overload or reduced effectiveness of septic systems.
Why is Southern Nevada's water system fluoridated?
Both the Nevada legislature and Clark County voters have mandated that fluoride be added to Southern Nevada’s water supply through legislation passed in 1999 and 2000.
Fluoride levels considerably lower than limits
Low levels of fluoride, about 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L), occur naturally in Southern Nevada's water supply.
Per regulations developed by the Nevada State Health Division and administered by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the Southern Nevada Water Authority adds 0.4 mg/L of fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid, or HFS) to bring the level to approximately 0.7 mg/L in the municipal water supply.
These levels are considerably lower than the federal Safe Drinking Water Act limit of 4.0 mg/L and the Nevada secondary standard of 2.0 mg/L.
Based on the average monthly water usage of Southern Nevada water customers, municipal water users pay an average of a little over $1 per household each year to cover fluoridation costs.
Some home filtration systems reduce fluoride. To find out if your system does so, you can contact the company from which you purchased the product, or call NSF International at 800-673-6275. NSF is an independent, not-for-profit organization that certifies the performance of home water-treatment systems and devices.
Drinking water delivered through the municipal system can sometimes look "milky" or "cloudy." This cloudiness often occurs when air become trapped in the water.
While this may impact the water's appearance, it does not affect the water's safety and will not harm household plumbing systems.
Air can be introduced in many ways, including the groundwater pumping process, water pipeline maintenance or temperature differences when cold groundwater is brought to the warmer surface.
Because water pipelines are pressurized, air remains trapped in the water until you open the faucet and release the pressure—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.
You might specifically notice a change in your tap water's clarity during the summer months. The tiny air bubbles are caused by the introduction of well water to augment Lake Mead supplies and meet our peak summer demand.
There's an easy way to test whether cloudy water is due to trapped air. Fill a glass with tap water and set it on the counter. Observe the water for a minute or two. As the air dissipates, water should clear up.
Medications and personal care products
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and personal care products such as lotions, sunscreens, fragrance and housecleaning products, are increasingly being detected in water bodies all over the world.
These substances are mostly found at extremely low levels, typically single-digit parts per trillion. This is well below drinking water standards, which are typically set in the parts-per-billion range—1,000 times higher.
The fact that a substance is detectable in drinking water does not mean it is harmful to humans. To date, research throughout the world has not demonstrated an impact on human health from the trace amounts of these compounds found in drinking water.
The water community is committed to protecting public health. Water professionals continue to examine the occurrence of these substances in drinking-water supplies and the effectiveness of current treatment techniques on removal, and are paying close attention to health-effects research in this area, including research being conducted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Proper medication disposal
Old or unused medications should never be flushed down the toilet, as this is a way that drugs can enter the water supply. The Southern Nevada Health District suggests these methods for the proper disposal of medications:
- Dump pills in a sealable bag.
- Crush the pills with a heavy object.
- Add an absorbent product to the bag, such as coffee grounds, kitty litter or sawdust.
- Pour liquid medications into the mix and seal.
- Discreetly hide in the garbage.
You also can visit the Pain in the Drain website to find a medication drop-off location near you.
A pink-colored film or ring frequently seen on shower curtains, tubs, toilets and pet water bowls is typically caused by growth of the airborne bacteria Serratia marcesens.
This harmless nuisance organism reacts with standing water and frequently forms during spring and summer months.
The bacteria cannot survive and is not present in the chlorinated drinking water supply.
The best treatment for this film is to keep bathroom surfaces clean using chlorine bleach on a regular basis.
A small amount of chlorine bleach (three to five tablespoons) added to a normal sized toilet bowl will destroy the bacteria.
Whenever a pink film starts to reappear, repeat the cleaning and disinfection process.
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic organism found in untreated surface water such as rivers, creeks and streams.
Cryptosporidiosis, the illness associated with this pathogen, may cause severe diarrhea, which poses a serious health risk to individuals with severely suppressed immune systems.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority tests regularly for this organism throughout the water treatment and distribution systems.
One of the most effective safeguards against Cryptosporidium is ozonation, a water treatment process that uses ozone to eliminate disease-causing organisms. The Water Authority's Alfred Merritt Smith and River Mountains water treatment facilities, which treat the majority of our water supply, incorporate ozonation into the treatment process.
How to prevent cryptosporidiosis:
- Wash your hands before handling food, after using the toilet, and after changing diapers
- Do not drink out of streams and other untreated water sources
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating
Giardia is a microscopic organism found in most untreated surface water. Ponds, streams and rivers are all surface water sources where giardia can live.
Giardiasis, the illness associated with this pathogen, may cause severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, malaise and weight loss. Vomiting, chills, headache and fever can occur in more serious cases. Giardiasis may pose a serious health risk to individuals with severely suppressed immune systems.
Giardiasis outbreaks occur more frequently in the northeast and northwest, possibly due to the extended winter season and low surface water temperatures.
Most community outbreaks occurred in water systems with minimum treatment to their surface water sources.
A giardiasis outbreak usually occurs when conditions include low water temperatures, poor sanitation upstream, beaver colonies (or other ground animals such as muskrat) located near the water supply intake, and inadequate water treatment.
Our water supply has been tested regularly for this organism since 1994.
One of the most effective safeguards against Giardiasis is ozonation, a water treatment process which uses ozone to eliminate biological organisms. The Southern Nevada Water Authority's Alfred Merritt Smith and River Mountains water treatment facilities, which treat the majority of our water supply, incorporate ozonation into the treatment process.
Perchlorate is a salt formed by the addition of oxygen molecules to chloride. It is used as an oxidizer in rocket propellants, fireworks and munitions, and also is naturally occurring in some fertilizers.
Although perchlorate is not regulated under the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has issued a preliminary reference dose equivalent—meaning the maximum acceptable daily amount of this material that should be ingested—of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
Lake Mead, which is the source of approximately 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s drinking water, contains low concentrations of perchlorate. Concentrations in the treated water currently average 0.7 ppb.
The sources of perchlorate in Lake Mead—and downstream in the Colorado River system—are two industrial complexes in the southeast portion of the Las Vegas Valley, where perchlorate was produced for industrial use.
Groundwater contaminated with perchlorate traveled to the Las Vegas Wash through the shallow groundwater system and subsequently entered the lake. Although perchlorate is no longer manufactured in that complex, this substance remains in the area’s surface water.
To capture this water and prevent additional perchlorate from entering the Las Vegas Wash, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection has overseen the installation of an interception system that uses wells to extract the contaminated water. This system has proven extremely effective, reducing the amount of perchlorate entering the Las Vegas Wash by approximately 90 percent.
Reverse osmosis units are generally effective at reducing perchlorate levels in drinking water to below detection limits. The Southern Nevada Water Authority encourages any customers with concerns about perchlorate-related health effects to consult their physician.
Trihalomethanes (THMs) are disinfection byproducts created when chlorine used to disinfect water reacts with naturally-occurring organic and inorganic materials.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority, which treats the valley's water supply, takes proactive measures to manage the formation of THMs during the water treatment process.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the maximum level of total THMs in treated water at 80 ppb (parts per billion). Southern Nevada's municipal water supply meets that health-based standard.
Although some studies have indicated an association between elevated levels of THMs and adverse health effects among pregnant women, no causal relationship has been established.
While science has not established a causal relationship between THMs and adverse health effects among pregnant women, the Water Authority advises consumers—particularly pregnant women—to call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 about any concerns related to THMs.
See our Water Quality Report for a complete analysis of the Las Vegas Valley's drinking water supply.
For more information about the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards, visit EPA.gov.