U.S. Water News Online
CARSON CITY, Nev. -- The Southern Nevada Water Authority
says in a final written report to the state's top water official that
there is plenty of water to pump from rural areas to serve the
growing Las Vegas population without harming the natural resources in
In arguments submitted by its lawyer, Paul Taggart, the authority
said the federal government failed to show that wildlife refuges
would be affected by the pumping of 17,000 acre feet of groundwater
from valleys in Clark and Lincoln counties.
Stephen Palmer, an attorney representing the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, told state
Engineer Hugh Ricci that drawing that much water will have an unknown
effect on groundwater reserves in the Tikapoo and Three Lakes
Palmer said that once the effects are felt, it will be too late to
The written reports restated oral arguments made during hearings
Ricci held two weeks ago.
Ricci has said he will decide by the end of the year whether to
let Las Vegas tap groundwater rights it claimed 15 years ago. The
decision could prompt court appeals no matter how he rules.
Taggart said only 2,000 acre feet of the 19,500 acre feet of water
available in the Tikapoo and Three Lakes valleys have been
appropriated, leaving enough for thirsty Las Vegas. An acre foot of
water is about enough for a family for a year.
``There is no evidence the pumping of 17,000 acre feet would
conflict with existing water rights,'' he said.
But Palmer said the federal government was concerned about the
water level at Devil's Hole, the home of the endangered desert
pupfish, as well as at critical environmental areas including Ash
Meadows, Death Valley and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
Palmer said the concerns ``stem from obligations of the federal
bureaus to protect the national areas ... and the water rights and
resources upon which those natural areas depend.''
The water authority has accelerated plans to tap groundwater
resources to the north of the city to supplement a drought-threatened
supply from Lake Mead. The Colorado River reservoir provides almost
all Las Vegas' drinking water, and Nevada is limited to drawing
300,000 acre feet of water per year.
The pumping plan is the first step in a long-range plan that could
involve a $1 billion pipeline system capable of drawing water from as
far north as White Pine County.
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