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Reclamation Joins in World Wetlands Day Observance

By Steve Leon, Public Affairs Specialist
Bureau of Reclamation

Reclamation employees at Wetlands Day booth
Bureau of Reclamation staffers Phil Aurit (left) and Becky Blasius (right) educated several students about the impacts of quagga mussels on Western aquatic ecosystems. (Click on image for full-size photo.)

“What are those things? Wow, that’s gross! Yuk!”

Those are just some of the comments overheard by Biologist Becky Blasius-Wert, Environmental Awareness Specialist Phil Aurit, and Public Affairs Specialist Steve León as they staffed a Bureau of Reclamation exhibit on Jan. 31 at the Clark County Wetlands Park Nature Center and Mitigation Ponds near Las Vegas, Nevada.

The trio was at the Center to represent Reclamation at the County’s observance of World Wetlands Day, a celebration that locally attracted about 100 attendees, mostly primary and secondary students, but some adults as well.

In keeping with this year’s theme “Wetlands Take Care of Water,” Blasius-Wert, Aurit and León joined the other exhibitors in discussing ways to protect Nevada’s wetlands and waterways, specifically Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River. Together they focused on describing the maintenance issue caused by invasive quagga mussels, along with promoting the “Clean, Drain and Dry” and “Don’t Move a Mussel” programs for those who enjoy watercraft recreation in Nevada’s waters and water ways in other Western states.

Additionally, the celebration included clean-up activities, weed pulling, short walking tours, and learning activities for children.

Other exhibitors at the day-long event represented the Nevada Division of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, Clark County Water Reclamation, Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee, U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers, and the National Park Service.

World Wetlands Day concerns

“Water management is a necessity in local communities, benefiting people and wildlife both locally and nationally. Wetlands take care of water and wisely using our wetlands is an essential component to the delivery of sustainable water management,” according to Sandra Harris of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Environmental Monitoring and Management.  

“The event was an opportunity to share enlightening and educational information on the importance as well as the necessity of healthy wetlands,” she said. 

Las Vegas Wash

The wetlands along the Las Vegas Wash provide many positive benefits for Las Vegas community. The water in the wetland system allows sediments to settle as water moves through the system. This permits a diverse community of microorganisms that break down organic and inorganic pollutants.

In other words, wetland vegetation works as a "filter" and picks up contaminants that may be in the water while microorganisms break these contaminants down as the water flows to Lake Mead.

Originally, the Las Vegas Wash contained about 2,000 acres of lush wetlands. As the population continued to grow in Las Vegas, more water was discharged into the Las Vegas Wash. In the 1970s, increased water flows started to erode the soil and by the early 1990s, less than 200 acres of wetlands remained.

The 29 members of the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee (LVWCC) devoted a lot of time and effort to the stabilization and enhancement of wetlands along the Las Vegas Wash.

So far, 14 of the 22 proposed weir structures, as well as several miles of bank protection, have been installed into the system, some by the Bureau of Reclamation, to better manage erosive water flows and reverse wetland degradation.

Wetlands Day History

In 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community took advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits. Currently, more than 98 countries participate each year.

In 2010, the LVWCC was the first group in Nevada to celebrate World Wetlands Day.

Now, each year, World Wetlands Day is celebrated on or around Feb. 2, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

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Updated: February 2013