U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- Three weeks of hearings have begun into a $2
billion plan to take billions of gallons of groundwater from wells in
the rural, east-central part of Nevada and deliver them more than 200
miles south to the Las Vegas Valley.
The plan pits advocates of the economic survival of Las Vegas
against proponents of farms, ranches and wildlife in rural White Pine
Nevada State Engineer Tracy Taylor will hear arguments in Carson
City for and against the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plan to
draw water from the deep aquifer beneath White Pine County's Spring
Half of the 180,000 acre feet -- nearly 33 billion gallons -- the
Water Authority wants would come from this valley.
For the water authority, approval is critical.
It would provide an alternative to the drought-stricken Colorado
River, which now provides nearly all of southern Nevada's water.
Kay Brothers, the water authority's deputy general manager, said
the water in Spring Valley is not currently being used.
Authority officials also say the growth of Las Vegas is a
beneficial use as defined by state law.
"The groundwater is absolutely critical to (the Las Vegas)
valley," Brothers said.
Opponents said they did not trust the water authority's promises
to mitigate and limit environmental and property damage.
They compare the program to the notorious Los Angeles purchase and
exploitation of water rights in the Owens Valley, 200 miles north in
the Sierra Nevada. That engineering effort, completed in 1913,
provided the water to fuel the California city's early boom but
turned the Owens Valley into a dust bowl.
"These hearings are about the largest water grab in the last 100
years, since Los Angeles turned the Owens Valley from a thriving
agricultural community to an ecological wasteland," says Bob
Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada,
a group that has become an outspoken opponent of the groundwater
Fulkerson compares Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy to
William Mulholland, the man who built Los Angeles' water system.
"Neither Mulroy nor Mulholland said they wanted to do damage, but
there will be damage, just as there was in the Owens Valley,"
Fulkerson says. "There's no getting around that."
Water authority officials say careful management of multiple wells
will keep eastern Nevada from going dry. They said there will be
localized effects, but no large-scale significant impacts.
The agency is buying two ranches in the Spring Valley with 8,500
acres, and water rights used to irrigate crops and meadows for
cattle: a total of almost 17,000 acre feet annually, or almost 5.5
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.