BAKER, NV –– On Thursday, the Southern Nevada Water Authority Board will vote whether to reaffirm its support for the Las Vegas water grab and pipeline in the agency’s 2019 Water Resource Plan.
The controversial $30 million Raiders deal is a drop in the bucket compared to the $15.5 billion (2011 dollars) that would be spent on pumping and piping billions of gallons of water hundreds of miles from White Pine, Lincoln and Nye Counties to Las Vegas.
The vote on the Water Resource Plan poses an opportunity for SNWA board members to question the destructive, costly project that has had multiple setbacks in state and federal court.
Thirty years of hydrologic, biologic, and economic evidence demonstrates that the water grab is not in the public interest for Las Vegas or the Great Basin. The BLM found the project would destroy more than 8,000 acres of wetlands and 191,000 acres of shrubland habitat in Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. Tribal resources, wildlife, and places like Great Basin National Park would all be at risk. A state judge ruled in 2013 that the project would violate provisions and precedents in Nevada water law.
PRO-PIPELINE SEGMENTS OF THE WATER RESOURCE PLAN ● •PG 149 (In SNWA Agenda Packet): The 2019 Water Resource Plan mentions that SNWA intends to pursue development of more than 50,000 acre feet of water resources annually in Snake Valley, which is home to Great Basin National Park and also includes two Utah counties. The USGS recently released a report demonstrating the SNWA’s proposal would drain aquifers in Snake Valley. ●
•PG 149: The Water Resource Plan also mentions pursuing more than 111,000 acre feet annually in Railroad Valley. ●
•PG 156: The plan erroneously details that SNWA will have future access to 91,988 acre feet annually in Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys. That water is the subject of litigation (oral arguments were last week in Nevada’s Seventh Judicial District Court). SNWA does not have access to that water currently because the Nevada State Engineer denied its applications in those valleys in 2018. ●
•PG 175: The report fails to mention that a federal judge remanded SNWA’s Right of Way application with the BLM for the pipeline in August 2017. The judge blocked the application from moving forward after determining it didn’t comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
“The Water Authority has more than $3 billion worth of outstanding debt. If Southern Nevadans are worried about $30 million for the Raiders, I have at least $15.5 billion worth of reasons why they should be worried about the water grab and pipeline project,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network. “After 30 years, now is the time for elected officials on the SNWA board to remove this boondoggle from its future plans and focus on what the agency does best: conservation.”
SNWA CONSERVATION ACHIEVEMENTS
The agency is among the best Western water purveyors when it comes to conservation. Year after year, the agency demonstrates that with sound planning, projects like the water grab are unnecessary. Here are some conservation highlights from the 2019 Water Resource Plan: ∑ Since 2000, SNWA has invested more than $230 million in incentive programs, reducing demand by more than 12.6 billion gallons annually. ∑ SNWA member agencies and Clark County have adopted a suite of land use codes, ordinances and water use policies to ensure more efficient use of water in Southern Nevada. These include time-of-day and day-of-week watering restrictions, water waste restrictions and limitations on the installation of new turf in residential and commercial development. ∑ Between 2002 and 2018, per capita and Colorado River water use has decreased by about 46 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, population has increased by more than 46 percent. ∑ SNWA has banked 2 million acre feet in Lake Mead via Intentionally Created Surplus Credits.