LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has applauded Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's release of regulations that will for the first time allow Nevada to store Colorado River water in Arizona.
"It's a great day for Southern Nevada," said SNWA Chair Mary Kincaid. "It gives us the opportunity to extend our water resources by more than 30 years. While this certainly does not eliminate the need for efficient water use, it does give us a chance to explore other water resource options," Kincaid said.
For the past few years there has been surplus water available from the Colorado River, but currently Nevada has no way of accumulating any of that water for future use. An acre-foot of water is approximately 326,000 gallons, enough to serve a family of five for a year. "Historically, Colorado River water has been based on a 'use it or lose it' scenario," Kincaid said. "Now we have a way to capture and retrieve that water when we need it."
Once the rules are finalized, Nevada hopes to negotiate an agreement that will allow it to store as much as 1.2 million acre-feet of water in Arizona. "The ability to store water in neighboring Arizona is an important component of the authority's long-term resource plan," she said.
The release of regulations governing interstate water banking is the latest phase in a process that began in 1994 among Arizona, Nevada, California, the Bureau of Reclamation, and American Indian tribes to discuss long-term regional water needs. Arizona took a lead role when it passed a law in 1996 that created the Arizona Water Banking Authority. This law allowed the new authority to not only bank Arizona's Colorado River water in its groundwater basin, but also allows banking for Nevada and California.
Under the proposed groundwater banking procedures, Nevada would receive credits for Colorado River water stored in Arizona's groundwater basin. When the water is needed, Arizona would withdraw the stored water for its own use, then allow Nevada to utilize a like amount of its Colorado River allocation. This process would eliminate the need for a prohibitively expensive interstate distribution system.
Kincaid praised the efforts of the entire Nevada Congressional delegation, Governor Kenny Guinn, and the Colorado River Commission of Nevada. She added that U.S. Senator Harry Reid played a particularly important role.
"Senator Reid's unwavering support of these regulations has been instrumental to the progress we've achieved," Kincaid said. "All of southern Nevada owes him a debt of gratitude for his foresight and determination."
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