Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NPR also takes a hard look

National Public Radio also weighs in on the Water Grab, with an excellent look at the issue from the rural perspective.
It's interesting to hear Water Czarina Pat Mulroy once again characterizing the lives and livelihoods of rural folks as irrelevent compared to the need for more slot machines and tract housing in Las Vegas. That's been a huge part of her agency's message all along, of course: Sure there might be some people and environment ruined, but it's worth it!
Here's the link to the NPR story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10953190

Utah Covers Actual Water News

While Las Vegas media are lauding the success of the SNWA's $250 million public relations campaign (shiny! flashing! lights!), some Great Basin outlets are instead taking a look at what the agency actually plans to do - which is to destroy the environment in an area the size of Connecticut in the name of protecting profits for real estate developers.
Joe Bauman of the Desert News has over the years done an excellent job of covering the issues involved with the agency's plans to defoliate Central Nevada and Western Utah. This is his latest:
Bauman details the fact that a recent draft study by the U.S. Geological Survey confirms what the Utah Geological Survey said years ago, and that is that SNWA's wells will drop the water table 50 to 100 feet, and impacts could be felt far from the well sites. That means vegetation with relatively shallow root systems will die, and with it wildlife that depends on that vegetation; springs and desert springs will dry up, and with it the land and aquatic animal life that comes with those precious desert water sources.
And - SNWA Water Grab funding sources might want to take a note of this - that means that rare and potentially federally protected species will be affected, and that could mean lengthy court battles. Of course, all along SNWA has claimed that the federal government would step in to stop any "significant" damage to the environment from their scheme, while simultaneously betting that existing federal policy that largely ignores the Endangered Species Act will continue.
It might be worth noting that every one of the Democrats in presidential field have promised renewed vigilence in protecting listed species and enforcing federal environmental law. Just saying.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Water Authority launches $250 million PR effort

Because the Water Authority is all about "sustainable development" - Ha! See, this is "irony"! - the agency, under the guise of its nom-de-developer Las Vegas Valley Water District, has built a $250 million project celebrating its environmental credentials.

Those of you who are opposed to the desertification of hundreds of square miles of the Great Basin can now look forward to the day when similar museums to what has been ruined pop up in Lincoln and White Pine counties. (And dare we dream? The rest of the Nevada, even Utah, as well!?!)

Anyhoo, I wrote a mean column about the Desert Springs Memorial to the Miracle of Infinitely Sustainable Tract Housing and Cheap Strip Malls, which you can read more about here:

Monday, June 4, 2007


A hummingbird in the Snake Valley, ground zero for the Water Authority's plans

Look forward to the Southern Nevada Water Authority claims that the release of a new federal study will justify grabbing rural water and defoliating central Nevada. The study dropped Friday - you didn't see anything about it in the local paper of record, which was busy trumpeting the water agency's museum of what used to be here called the "Desert Springs Preserve." (For $15, you, too, can learn what "sustainability" means when you are a huge booster of ugly tract housing!)
If the Water Authority goes forward with their plans for the pipeline, we'll need similar museums to show the people of White Pine and Lincoln counties what used to be there before the agency decided to improve things.

Anyway, a coalition of groups wants to put some perspective on this issue and released a statement last week:

The release of the U.S. Geological Survey’s draft Basin Area Regional Carbonate Aquifer System Study – commonly referred to by its acronym of BARCASS – will help us understand the interrelated and fragile character of the Great Basin and its water resources.

But the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Great Basin Water Network, the Nevada Conservation League, the Great Basin Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, and countless individual scientists, conservationists, ranchers and residents of the Great Basin warn that this study should not be used to justify ecologically destructive water “mining” in White Pine, Lincoln or Clark counties.

The BARCASS study presents new data and new interpretation of existing data, but it leaves many important questions unanswered. The one conclusion the study does clearly reach is that the “hydrologic basins,” or valleys, of the region are far more interconnected than previously assumed. That means that taking water out of one valley, such as Spring Valley, is going to have negative repercussions in adjacent valleys or even valleys far from the well sites. This means that plans by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Vidler Water Co. and others to take water from dozens of wells in rural Nevada could have devastating impacts on wildlife refuges, ranches and American Indian reservations.

What the BARCASS study doesn’t do is predict what will happen if the SNWA plans to mine the vital groundwater are allowed to proceed. The study is narrowly focused on Central Nevada, and does not evaluate cumulative effects of the total quantities approved for pumping.

But hydrologists, those who study groundwater in these fragile areas, agree with those who live in the targeted area on this critical point: There is no “extra” water. The BARCASS study confirms that billions of gallons of water are used in the Great Basin by plants in a process called evaporative transpiration, or evapotranspiration – ET, for short. If you take water away from these valleys, you would be taking water from plants, and from the animals that depend on that vegetation, and from the ranchers and conservationists who count on that ecological balance to sustain the environment.

Unfortunately, there are already some signs that the environment in those areas is in trouble. Pumping and drought have taken their toll in much of the Great Basin. Wild horses have died in an area of the Snake Valley in which springs and seeps have dried up. Pumping more water from rural Nevada to support the fat profit margins of real estate developers who drive the out-of-control growth in Las Vegas will only deepen the negative impacts we have already seen in the Great Basin, as well as in Southern Nevada

The conclusion is clear to scientists, residents and visitors who take an honest look at the region: There is NO unused water in the Great Basin. Drilling, pumping and piping the water out of the rural areas WILL take water away from other sources. The impact could be devastating, and rural Nevada should not be the subject of a wild and dangerous experiment until all of the risks are known.