Las Vegas water pipeline protest comes to Carson City
Opponents of a bill they say would overturn 150 years of Nevada water law in favor of Las Vegas brought a visual aid to Carson City on Thursday.
The huge steel bucket that has been at the entrance to the Great Basin Park east of Ely for decades was trucked to Carson City and parked outside the Legislature. On its side is a sign saying: “Water grab will bleed Las Vegas ratepayers and Eastern Nevada dry.”
Kyle Roerink, director of Great Basin Water Network, described AB30 as, “an end around of current law” that would open the door to a pattern of getting around statutes that now protect those with vested water rights.
Under long standing Nevada law, those with senior vested water rights have first call on the water in any area. Some of those ranchers and others have rights dating back to the 1860s.
He said the purpose of that bill is to remove the requirement if there’s no unappropriated water in the source of supply for a new water application, that application must be denied. It would instead give the state engineer the ability to ask the applicant to submit a monitoring, management and mitigation plan for the water being sought and, if that plan satisfies him, approve the new application.
The bill is designed to give the Southern Nevada Water Authority leverage to get water permits that would supply its long-sought pipeline from Eastern Nevada to Las Vegas.
Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, a longtime opponent of the pipeline, said if SNWA gets access to the deep aquifer water supply in Northeast Nevada, “those areas will be completely impacted and turned into a desert.”
He said the water in those deep aquifers has been underground, “for thousands if not millions of years.” Once it’s taken, he said it will be gone forever.
Goicoechea said the big issue is no one knows how much water they contain.
“We don’t truly know how much water is out there and what the annual yields are,” he said.
Goicoechea said before any of that water is tapped, there needs to be a serious evaluation of how much water those valleys can yield each year without being drawn down.
The battle over the proposed pipeline has been raging in the State Engineer’s office and the courts for 30 years since SNWA first proposed the idea as a new water supply to support growth in the Las Vegas valley.
AB320 passed out of the Assembly 31-9 but hasn’t received a vote in the Senate where it was placed on the Secretary’s Desk.