U.S. Water News Online
CARSON CITY, Nev. -- A Southern Nevada Water Authority
executive said the agency would cut back on pumping groundwater in
remote areas of Clark and Lincoln counties if the pumping threatened
to dry up the outlying areas.
Kay Brothers, deputy director of the water authority that's
seeking more water to meet growing Las Vegas demands, made the pledge
during a state engineer's hearing on applications to pump some 17,000
acre feetof water annually from the Tikaboo and Three Lakes valleys
north of Las Vegas.
Farmers, local government officials, Indian tribal groups,
environmentalists and several federal agencies have expressed concern
about the pumping plan that would require a huge pipeline system
costing about $213 million.
The seven applications being reviewed by state Engineer Hugh Ricci
are part of a 1989 water grab by the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
The applications were later turned over to the regional water
Brothers said the water authority has Colorado River water and
other ``banked'' water resources and is developing Virgin River water
use plus additional banked supplies, and the Tikaboo-Three Lakes
water would augment those other sources.
``We have many other resources that we will continue to augment
and implement,'' Brothers said.
``Because we have this large amount of water ... we would be able
to reduce and mitigate (Tikaboo-Three Lakes) pumpage if we did see
impacts that were adverse,'' she added.
Concerns aired by federal agencies that have challenged the
pumping plan have focused on areas such as Devil's Hole, a deep,
10-by-30-foot cave of hot, fresh water that's home to the rare
Devil's Hole Pupfish.
But Charles Pettee of the U.S. Park Service said a monitoring plan
to ensure safety of the pupfish, which has survived in part because
of a 1976 federal court ruling later affirmed by the U.S. Supreme
Court, might prompt the Park Service to drop its protest.
Besides Devil's Hole, there's concern about the pumping impact on
the Desert National Wildlife Range, the Ash Meadows and Pahranagat
national wildlife refuges, and the Moapa Valley refuge.
Other agencies pressing for close monitoring of the water pumping
include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Bureau of
Land Management and the U.S. Geologic Survey.
Ricci expects to issue a decision before the end of the year --
and that decision could lead to a court appeal no matter how he
The battle over rural water rights has gone on for years, and has
picked up in response to a five-year drought in southern Nevada. The
seven applications now up for review were among nearly 150 filed in
If the SNWA can get Ricci's approval, it will pump water from the
Three Lakes Valley first, bringing up to 7,000 acre feet of water a
year to the Las Vegas water system by 2007. The Three Lakes project
alone would cost up to $40 million, with the rest of the $213 million
cost being incurred as the pumping expands farther north. Water could
be drawn from the Tikaboo Valley beginning in 2011.
The pumping plan is seen as the first step in a long-range plan
that could involve a $1 billion pipeline system capable of drawing
water from farther north in Lincoln County and into White Pine
The 17,000 acre feet the water authority hydrologists estimate can
be taken without adverse effects from the valleys would be enough
water for 85,000 people.
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