Western Environmental
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Southern Nevada Pipeline Rejected Again

In the latest chapter on a controversial subject we’ve discussed before on the WETLAB blog, a judge has once again rejected a Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline aimed at eastern Nevada water.

This is the second time a judge has blocked the project since 2009, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which would siphon billions of gallons a year from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas.

Seventh District Court Judge Robert Estes ruled that Nevada’s chief water regulator needed to recalculate and reduce how much water could safely be taken from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys, according to the article.

Estes found that the amount of water proposed would affect other water rights, particularly in Spring Valley, where the project would mean the valley wouldn’t reach equilibrium even after 200 years.

He said the project, “is unfair to following generations of Nevadans and is not in the public interest,” according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The proposed project, according to the Las Vegas Sun, would have cost $6.5 billion over 10 years, and has been protested by environmental groups, ranchers and Indian tribes.

If approved, the deal would have taken an estimated 84,000 acre-feet of water. An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.

“There is no objective standard to determine when mitigation efforts will be eliminated and implemented,” Estes said in the Sun article, requiring the State Engineer, Jason King, to take steps to avoid potential environmental impacts.

While King said he was disappointed, opponents lauded the decision. And while the decision has been made for now, it didn’t dispute the need for water for Southern Nevada outside of the Colorado River supply – an issue that will continue to arise as time goes on.

As summer comes to a close, another dry season has taken its toll on Southern Nevada water supplies.

Drought conditions have dropped water levels in Lake Mead to “near critical levels,” according to 8newsnow.com, putting Las Vegas Valley water supply in a tight spot.

The situation has gotten bad enough that Las Vegas water officials may seek federal disaster aid, according to ktvn.com.

In a comment to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy compared the severity of the situation to Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast last year.

Lake Mead’s water level has dropped more than 100 feet since 2000, according to ktvn.com.

If Lake Mead drops to 1,075 feet, Nevada will be forced to cut water usage by 4 percent, according to 8newsnow.com. The lake was at 1,106 feet, as of August 8, and falling fast.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority cannot pull water out of Lake Mead if it drops below 1,000 feet, but is drilling a third “straw” into the lake to gain deeper access in case levels continue to drop.

Many are viewing this as a long-term issue, and one that will have to be dealt with on a larger scale.

“They really all see, as do most scientists, the fact that we’re not really in a period of drought. It is climate change,” Dr. Stephen Parker of University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told 8newsnow.com.

And according to federal water experts and climatologists, the picture is grim for all of the South West that depends on the Colorado River for water, according to an article in the Las Vegas Sun.

Demand for water from the Colorado River exceeds current supply, according to the article, meaning the government may have to spend between $4 and $7 billion to ensure a more stable supply for Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.

This situation only reinforces the importance of properly, and carefully, managing not only our water supply in the west, but insuring the water we do have is kept at high water quality standards so it isn’t wasted.

A recent water quality story caught our eye out of Southern Nevada – mysterious brown foam found floating on Lake Mead.

According to an Associated Press Report, officials urged people to avoid the Overton Arm, a northern area of the lake, when several dozen carp were found dead in the foam, which extended for about eight miles from the mouth of the Virgin River to Echo Bay.

Water quality testing is underway, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife is investigating the fish deaths, according to the article, but the Southern Nevada Water Authority, monitoring water quality at two intakes, hasn’t found any problems.

The article quotes Southern Nevada Water Authority Spokesman Bronson Mack as saying no pollutants have been found at the intakes.

“It really is a massive body of water, and that’s one benefit from a drinking water perspective,” he told the Associated Press in regards to dilution, adding that water from the Overton Arm takes about a month to make it to the intakes.

In an www.8newsnow.com story, there was speculation of a virus killing the fish and an increase in water temperatures killing off algae to create the foam, meaning the two could be unrelated.

But in an editorial on lasvegascitylife.com, Peabody Award-winning reporter George Knapp raised some concerns.

“I would probably feel a bit better about drinking tap water from the lake if I hadn’t heard so many similar statements from our water officials in years gone by. SNWA and the Water District have spent millions over the years on touchy-feely TV commercials that assure all of us how great our water tastes and about all of the incredibly rigorous tests which are conducted thousands of times each month to ensure that every drop is perfectly safe,” Knapp wrote, referring to missed pollutants in Lake Mead like perchlorate that went undetected by testing for decades.

This will be an interesting story to follow, and one that drives home the importance of water quality monitoring.

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