Floodplain lands and adjacent waters combine to form a complex, dynamic physical and biological system found nowhere else. When portions of floodplains are preserved in (or restored to) their natural state, they provide many benefits to both human and natural systems.
These benefits range from providing aesthetic pleasure to reducing the number and severity of flooding, helping handle storm water runoff and minimizing non-point water pollution. For example, by allowing floodwater to slow down, sediments settle out, thus maintaining water quality. The natural vegetation filters out impurities and uses excess nutrients.
Such natural processes cost far less money than it would take to build facilities to correct flood, storm water, water quality and other community problems.
A unique feature to the Las Vegas valley and the city of Henderson is the Las Vegas Wash. Once seasonally active with broad floodplains, the Las Vegas Wash has become a perennial stream. The Wash is the largest of three tributaries in Southern Nevada flowing into Lake Mead; the other two being the Virgin River and the Muddy River. Stretching approximately 12 miles, the Wash begins at the southeastern portion of Las Vegas and ends at the Las Vegas Bay on Lake Mead. The Wash carries water returns to the lake in the form of urban runoff, shallow groundwater seepage, storm water, and reclaimed water from the valleys three water reclamation facilities.
The Las Vegas Wash at one time was a thriving wetland ecosystem that covered a large area. The plant life was healthy and diverse. Many different species of animals, reptiles and birds inhabited the floodplain. A variety of ducks used the wetlands as a stop over on their yearly migrations.
The Las Vegas Wash has experienced severe channel-bed degradation over the past 15 to 20 years resulting in the loss of existing wetland area and a decline in water quality that affects nearby Lake Mead.