Vegas, Phoenix agencies reach money-for-water deal

LAS VEGAS - A deal reached in Phoenix could provide enough water for tens of thousands of homes over the next several decades in the Las Vegas area, officials said.

The agreement approved Thursday by the Arizona Water Banking Authority and last week by the Central Arizona Project board is due for a vote next Thursday by the Southern Nevada Water Authority in Las Vegas.

It calls for Arizona to guarantee 1.25 million acre-feet of its annual Colorado River water allotment to Nevada in return for $330 million from the Las Vegas-area water authority over the next 15 years.

Pat Mulroy, Southern Nevada Water Authority chief, called it "a historic beginning to a new partnership."

It includes a pledge for Las Vegas water officials to support Arizona's call for a rewrite of rules allocating Colorado River water.

California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of water yearly from the river, Arizona 2.8 million and Nevada 300,000. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough to supply up to two households for a year.

The Nevada-Arizona deal would let the Las Vegas-based water authority draw as much as 20,000 more acre-feet of water a year beginning in 2007 from the Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The amount Las Vegas could draw would increase to 30,000 acre-feet in 2009, and 40,000 acre-feet after 2011. Nevada would have until 2060 to exhaust its Arizona water credits.

The authority would pay $100 million to Arizona in 2005, and 10 installments of $23 million beginning in 2009. Nevada agreed to cut its supply if Arizona cities face shortages.

Mulroy told Central Arizona Project board members last week that the Las Vegas area needed to secure a water source until it can develop groundwater supplies in Nevada over the next several years.


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