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Nevada water pipeline: In jeopardy?

Great BasinNevadaPat Mulroywater

Mulroy The Nevada Supreme Court dealt a huge blow Thursday to Las Vegas officials’ controversial plan to siphon water from the state’s rural north, saying that a faulty application process invalidates the south's claim to tens of thousands of acre-feet of water.

Starting in 1989, Las Vegas-area water officials – anticipating a massive population boom in thirsty southern Nevada – asked the state water engineer for groundwater rights in a number of rural valleys. Critics panned the proposal to channel water, via a 300-mile pipeline, from ranching to casino country as an Owens Valley-like grab. A number of people filed formal objections.

“It was very much a way to just lock up this water,” said Simeon Herskovits, the lead attorney for protesters including the Great Basin Water Network.

The state engineer was required by law to move on the water rights applications within a year. Nothing happened until 2005. As the state engineer began to consider the water requests, dozens of people, including the relatives of northern landowners who had died since the applications were first filed, tried to lodge formal objections. They were denied.

The state Supreme Court ruling sends the parties back to a District Court, which will decide whether the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) must start the application process anew, as the protesters would like. Alternately, the court could recommend that the state engineer simply reopen the formal protest period.

“This sends the whole water rights decision back to the drawing board,” Herskovits said.

In a statement, the SNWA, a politically powerful agency headed by pipeline advocate Pat Mulroy, said it was disappointed by the decision and was considering asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider.

“We believe the justices may not fully appreciate the far-reaching ramifications of their decision on people throughout the state,” the statement said. It’s common, the agency said, for the state engineer to wait more than a year to weigh an application and, in light of the court’s ruling, thousands of permits “could be called into question.”

The agency recently said it would build the water pipeline only if absolutely necessary. The recession has halted the Las Vegas region’s breakneck growth and water use has dipped, though a prolonged drought has so sapped Lake Mead, the region’s chief source of water, that a chalk-white bathtub ring marks the water's previous level.

-- Ashley Powers

Photo: The Southern Nevada Water Authority's Pat Mulroy has advocated pumping rural water 300 miles south to Las Vegas. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

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The real threat to NV's water is 19th century steam engines being re-branded as "concentrating solar" which will totally destroy millions of acres of wilderness and use hundreds of billions of gallons of water a year (500,000 gallons a day, for each power plant for 24-36 months of construction, and only slightly less after that for water-cooled plants and slightly less than that for mirror rinsing on air cooled plants). They are an ECO DISASTER (ecological as well as economic).

Thermo-electric power is the elephant in every water-conservation room, using a full 49% of our nations potable water supply. That means as much as ALL industrial, agricultural and residential COMBINED. So, how are these greenwashers getting away with pushing for MORE of it, especially in our deserts? Especially while rooftops and built environments bake and sprawl with NO ROOFTOP PV?!?!?

It is embarrassingly simple if people stop listening to propaganda (including that of many Big Enviros who are fighting against their membership, which is almost entirely opposed to slaughtering wilderness for Chevron profits). The built environment is the only appropriate place for renewable power production, and efficiency upgrades, PV and solar hot water are the keys to democratic, fast, affordable, non-lethal power.

Like CA, NV needs to IMMEDIATELY STOP processing any power plant applications in its wilderness and needs to IMMEDIATELY START incentivizing point of use solutions in its built environment. Start with loans and feed in tariffs, which are virtually FREE to all of us, and proven the most effective way to quickly ramp up production and reduce consumption.

It certainly does not seem like Las Vegas is in a position to ask for more water. When the golf courses are gone, when the culture doesn't "need" to shower twice a day, and when xeriscaping is the norm, then maybe we can talk about more water for vegas...

Why give Vegas water from the rest of the State when all they do is water golf courses, build artificle lakes, and build fountains at casinos? If Vegas doesn't have enough local water, STOP BUILDING!! TRY CONSERVATION VEGAS, YOU ARE A DESERT!!!

What GREATER GOOD could be put for this scarce, priceless LIFE-GIVING treasure, than to flush toilets in America's biggest sewer?

Justice has prevailed - at least for the time being. This is a great decision for the rural communities of Nevada and Utah and the environment. SNWA under the direction of Mulroy has bullied and "rolled" anyone or anything that got in its way, all to cater to unsustainable development. The delay affords the Clark County Commission and other local governments an opportunity to step back and open a dialogue with the public on what a sustainable Las Vegas would look like and how to achieve it. The question is, will they?

sounds like our could be the go.

Great job, Ashley. Since thousands of square miles of the Great Basin would be defoliated by the SNWA's scheme, and that would send blowing dust to cause earlier snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains and less water in the Colorado River, Southern California really has a dog in this fight.
As anyone who has looked at Mono Lake or the Owens Valley can attest, bad public policy has impacts many, many years after those who imposed those policies have left us.


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