U.S. Water News Online
SALT LAKE CITY -- A southern Nevada water official argues
that it is in Utah's interest to make a deal with Nevada on
development of Snake Valley groundwater on the state line.
Standing in the way of the Las Vegas area's groundwater pumping
and pipeline project could set a bad precedent for cooperative water
ventures throughout the West, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
General Manager Pat Mulroy told The Salt Lake Tribune editorial
"When one state tries to stop (internal) development of another
state's water supply, things can get dicey," she said.
Mulroy acknowledged that SNWA sought an accelerated timetable from
Utah for reaching a water-sharing agreement on Snake Valley
She said the water authority needs to have the framework of a deal
in place before Nevada's state engineer holds public hearings on the
$1 billion project.
Utah agreed and is doing groundwater analysis in the Snake Valley
to meet a September deadline.
Mulroy said she is troubled by opposition to the plan to tap
groundwater wells in four rural Nevada basins and ship it to Las
Vegas via a 200-mile pipeline.
She objects to language inserted in a congressional bill on the
Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, inserted a rider into Nevada Sen. Harry
Reid's 2004 Lincoln County land use bill that states that Utah and
Nevada must come to an agreement over shared groundwater resources in
the Snake Valley before the water authority's project can commence.
Mulroy said that is tantamount to a veto and is being used by SNWA
opponents as a club to scuttle the project.
"Let's turn it around," Mulroy said. "Would Utah stand still to
allow Nevada to veto a water project being developed in Utah?
"That language is about as unfortunate a thing as I have seen.
It's given people a notion that Utah does, in fact, have a veto. The
sooner we have an agreement, the better off we'll all be," she said.
Mike Styler, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources,
said Utah has never considered the bill language, written by the
state engineer, as a veto.
He said it was inserted to assure Utah's interests in the Snake
Valley Basin were protected. Utah claims roughly 40 percent of the
groundwater that sits in the aquifer.
"We have never wanted to stop the project," Styler said. "She
looks at this as a veto, and I do not. All we intended it to be was
leverage for Utah to be able to protect our water rights. And it's
working very well because we're at the table."
The accelerated timeline to make a deal with Nevada has been
criticized by opponents, who say completion of a detailed U.S.
Geological Survey study of groundwater resources in the region is
still two years away.
"The supposed draft agreement is a premature, unacceptable
document, not in the best interests of Utah, and shows how little our
water resources and lives of the west desert's citizens matter," Don
Duff, president of the Utah Council of Trout Unlimited said in a
letter to Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Mulroy says the USGS study will not settle the question of how
much water is in storage below the Snake Valley, or how taking 25,000
acre feet a year out will impact the resource.
She said the only way to determine that is to start withdrawing
water and make adjustments as impacts present themselves.
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