LAS VEGAS (AP) - With applications pending for groundwater rights in counties north of Las Vegas, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has begun studies of plans to build a pipeline to bring the water south.
The authority applied Thursday to the federal Bureau of Land Management for permission to build wells and pipelines to deliver water from Lincoln and White Pine counties to fast-growing Clark County.
The application is part of an overall plan to double the amount of water available to Las Vegas, which now gets 90 percent its drinking water from drought-threatened Lake Mead.
Gene Drais, of the BLM's Ely field office, said the size of the request and community interest made the proposal unusual. The federal government controls most of the land in Nevada.
The water authority board also approved paying the BLM up to $4.5 million to conduct an environmental analysis for the Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project.
The BLM will head an environmental assessment examining the potential effects of building hundreds of miles of pipeline and pumping groundwater from dozens of rural wells.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority will also need approval from the state for pumping rights and from Congress for rights of way for the pipelines.
Water authority officials have promised to comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements and groundwater use rules.
Kay Brothers, deputy water authority general manager, said the BLM environmental assessment should take 2 1/2 years and involve multiple opportunities for public comment, beginning this fall.
Some residents in the rural counties north of Las Vegas have said they oppose the idea of sending water to Las Vegas. They compare the plan with Los Angeles drawing water from the rural Owens Valley in California.