Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Las Vegas water pipeline potentially plugged

The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) received a setback to its proposed pipeline to pump groundwater from Northern Nevada to Southern Nevada.  A Nevada district court denied the SNWA authority to tap the northern counties' groundwater.  The decision will be appealed.

At first glance, the pipeline project appears to reflect Las Vegas' seemingly insatiable desire for water to support rapid residential and commercial development.  But the reality is a bit more complicated.  While the idea of living in the middle of the desert seems audacious, the Las Vegas Valley has generally been a good steward of water resources.  The density of residential development, for example, is quite high and cuts against common anti-sprawl arguments.  The real trouble for Las Vegas is that it receives very little water from the Colorado River compared to neighboring states.  When the Colorado River allocation agreement was initially struck, Nevada (and Las Vegas) were much smaller in population and weaker in political power.  With the subsequent growth of Las Vegas, it becomes necessary to find a back-up plan to buttress the limited water resources from the Colorado.    

Ngai Pindell


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To elaborate a little bit more on the complications, initial efforts to rein in Las Vegas residents' excessive uses of water for grassy lawns, pools, and car-washing, among other unsustainable residential uses in an area of low annual rainfall were met with astonishingly strong resistance. However, the SNWA and City of Las Vegas have worked very hard to alter residential water use patterns and development practices and have made some real strides in getting residents to move towards conservation or at least more limited outdoor uses of water, at least as I understand it. Perhaps it hasn't been enough for the climate, growth, and limited water supplies of Las Vegas, but it's been better than a number of other major urban areas that have begun to experience some level of scarcity yet resist major changes in water use patterns (e.g., Atlanta).

Posted by: Tony Arnold | Nov 4, 2009 7:25:56 AM

Indeed, Prof. Arnold is correct about the resistance to water conservation here in Georgia, and all the recent rains haven't helped conservation advocates one bit.

Posted by: Jamie Baker Roskie | Nov 5, 2009 2:42:50 PM