Environmentalists are warning that a plan to pipe billions of gallons of water a year from rural central Nevada nearly 300 miles to the Las Vegas metropolitan area will dry up wetlands and springs, damaging thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and potentially creating a “dust bowl” scenario.
At issue is the Bureau of Land Management’s issuance last week of a final environmental impact statement for a proposal to build an underground pipeline to transport as much as 27 billion gallons of water a year to the Las Vegas Valley (Greenwire, Aug. 3).
Nevada State Engineer Jason King in March granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) the right to pump water from four rural valleys as far as 300 miles to the Las Vegas metro area, which currently gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado River system’s Lake Mead (ClimateWire, March 26).
A record of decision (ROD) granting final approval to the $15 billion pipeline project is expected in October, according to the SNWA, which called BLM’s review of the pipeline proposal “the most comprehensive analysis ever conducted for a municipal water supply project.”
SNWA says the project is necessary because southern Nevada has grown so much in recent years that the utility is not sure it can rely on the Colorado River, which has endured years of drought and growing water demand that have strained the delicate seven-state compact that allocates its water.