By: Kyle Roernik
Kyle Roerink is Executive Director of the Great Basin Water Network
Nearly 20 years ago, White Pine County took a major gamble when it decided to take on Las Vegas in defense of its water supply.
Many detractors and pro-pipeline forces said safe money was on Vegas to win.
As the news about the death of the pipeline now shows, that was not a good bet.
The end of the pipeline quarrel is a major victory for rural Nevada and the residents of Las Vegas. And at the foundation of this David-vs-Goliath battle are the past and present officials representing White Pine County.
For more than a decade, local leaders have stepped up to ensure that the water supply remained where it belongs — hundreds of miles away from Vegas.
That is no small feat considering the opposition.
Next time you drive through Spring or Snake Valleys, be sure to tip your hat to the
There’s a reason why our collective efforts allowed us to score consecutive seven legal victories against the Southern Nevada Water Authority in the past two decades.
The water Vegas wanted never existed.
I applaud White Pine County officials for recognizing that the project always has been illegal under Nevada Water Law and Federal Law. Without that commitment to protecting the statutes that defend the waters of the state, we could be reading White Pine County’s obituary rather than this revelation.
The beginning of the end for the SNWA saga was the March 9 legal decision handed down by Judge Robert Estes. That ruling, which nullified key water applications and management plans for the project, exemplifies how prudent it was to defend the integrity of the law all these years.
The fact that Southern Nevada and the Nevada Division of Water Resources declined to appeal was shocking. But the fact that SNWA voted to take all necessary actions to truly kill the 1989 Water Grab in mid-May was a sign of the times more than anything else.
New leadership, new outlooks and cost considerations all played a role. SNWA is doubling down on conservation and seeking more collaboration along the Colorado River.
We’ve been encouraging that all along. SNWA will maintain its ranching operations in Spring Valley with 900,000 acres of grazing allotments and about 60,000 acre-feet worth of water rights.
Who knows what will come next. But we have to balance celebrating this win and remaining vigilant.
White Pine County is not a place to bet against. The MX missile project and the Vegas pipeline exemplify its knack for achieving one-in-a-million victories. But don’t forget, we’re the nation’s driest state, and White Pine County is one of Nevada’s wettest places. I would wager some far away entity, sometime, will be willing to gamble on the water table again.