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female in background conducting water testing at River Mountains Water Treatment Facility

Treatment and testing

The Southern Nevada Water Authority uses cutting edge technology to ensure that your water is treated and tested to the utmost standards of safety. The Water Authority is committed to ensuring your water quality, reliability, and security because we know you depend on it every day.

The Water Authority not only tests for more contaminants than required; we test many regulated and unregulated contaminants more frequently than required.

Testing of your water

In 2020, Water Authority laboratory staff members:

  • Collected 54,465 water samples
  • Conducted 307,655 analyses of those samples
  • Tested for more than 160 regulated and unregulated contaminants
  • Monitored water quality in "real time" 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Intensive testing can detect contaminants in concentrations of parts per billion (ppb). To put that in perspective, one ppb is equivalent to 1 inch in 15,750 miles or one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. This ability can help us detect-and manage-potential water quality issues before they become a regulatory concern.

The Water Authority ensures accuracy through a certification program requiring us to periodically test samples from an independent laboratory. The results of these analyses are compared to those conducted at the independent lab. Annual inspections of our treatment facilities also are included in the certification requirements.

Treatment of your water

We have two advanced water treatment facilities designed to do one thing—provide drinking water that meets or surpasses all state and federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards for water quality.

Water from Lake Mead is treated with small quantities of chlorine as it is withdrawn, to deter invasive quagga mussels, which do not impact water quality but can plug pumping equipment and pipelines.

Water is then sent to either the Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility or the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility, where it is treated with ozone to kill potentially harmful microscopic organisms that may be present. A multistage filtration system is then used to remove particles from the water.

As the water leaves the water treatment facilities, chlorine is again added to protect it on the way to homes and businesses. It also is treated to minimize corrosion in the pipelines.

Because it is naturally filtered, water drawn from the Las Vegas Valley groundwater aquifer is simply treated with chlorine as it enters the distribution system.

What is ozonation?

Implemented in 2003, ozonation destroys bacteria and other microorganisms through an infusion of ozone, a strong disinfectant produced by subjecting oxygen molecules to high electrical voltages.

Ozonation destroys cryptosporidium, bacteria and other naturally-occurring organisms. It also can reduce the formation of trihalomethanes.

Ozone is a very strong disinfectant, but it does not stay in the water very long. Chlorine is still added to protect the water while it’s in the distribution system.

Water Quality Lab ensures your water surpasses drinking standards

The Southern Nevada Water Authority Water Quality Laboratory and Applied Research & Development Center houses one of the most sophisticated municipal water quality laboratory complexes in the world.

To ensure that water delivered to Southern Nevada's municipal customers meets the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the laboratory water quality monitoring staff collects samples from the lake to the tap. Samples are taken from neighborhood sampling stations, Lake Mead, as well as groundwater wells, reservoirs, and other locations.

Biological contaminants

Like most water sources, Lake Mead is a living ecosystem of which microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and algae are a natural part. Our Microbiology Laboratory staff ensures those biological contaminants aren't present in our treated water supply.

Chemical contaminants

Our Chemistry Laboratory has three areas of specialty:

  1. Metals: Acceptable concentrations of metals, such as lead, copper and arsenic are strictly limited by state and federal law.
  2. Organic compounds: These include potential chemicals such as methyl tertiary butyl ether—the gasoline additive commonly known as MTBE—and common household compounds such as paint solvent.
  3. Inorganic compounds: Substances such as perchlorate, phosphates and nitrate are tracked.

Our laboratories are certified by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. Additionally, the Microbiology Laboratory is among the few municipal facilities certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for cryptosporidium and giardia detection. Staff members proactively review drinking water regulations to anticipate changes to contaminant limits, testing requirements and analytical methods.