Systems dynamic model to forecast salinity load to the Colorado River due to urbanization within the Las Vegas Valley

Arjun K. Venkatesan, Sajjad Ahmad, Walter Johnson, Jacimaria R. Batista

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


This study evaluates the impact of urban growth in the Las Vegas Valley (LVV), Nevada, USA on salinity of the Colorado River. In the past thirty eight years the LVV population has grown from273,288 (1970) to 1,986,146 (2008). The wastewater efuents and runoff from the valley are diverted back to the Colorado River through the Las VegasWash (LVW).With the growth of the valley, the salinity released fromurban areas has increased the level of TDS in thewastewater efuents, ultimately increasing the TDS in the Colorado River. The increased usage of water softeners in residential and commercial locations is a major contributor of TDS in the wastewater efuents. Controlling TDS release to the Colorado River is important because of the 1944 Treaty signed between the USA and Mexico. In addition, the agriculture salinity damage cost for the Colorado River has been estimated to be more than$306 amillion per year using 2004 salinity levels.With the expected growth of LVV in coming years the TDS release into Lake Mead will increase over time. For this purpose, it is important to investigate future TDS release into the Colorado in anticipation of potential TDS reducing measures to be adopted. In this research, a dynamic simulationmodelwas developed using systemdynamicsmodeling to carry outwater and TDS mass balances over the entire LVV. The dynamic model output agreed with historic data with an average error of 2%. Forecasts revealed that conservation efforts can reduce TDS load by 16% in the year 2035 when compared to the current trend. If total population usingwater softeners can be limited to 10% in the year 2035, from the current 30% usage, TDS load in the LVW can be reduced by 7%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2616-2625
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • Colorado River
  • Las Vegas Valley
  • Salinity control
  • System dynamics
  • Total dissolved solids
  • Urbanization


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