Fresh Ideas by Abby Johnson: Fed report sounds the alarm: Water grab is a disaster for Nevada |

Fresh Ideas by Abby Johnson: Fed report sounds the alarm: Water grab is a disaster for Nevada

Abby Johnson
For the Nevada Appeal

Remember the drug prevention ad on TV years ago?

“This is your brain” – a fresh egg in a frying pan.

“This is your brain on drugs” – egg overcooked and sizzling in the pan.

“Any questions?”

The federal Bureau of Land Management map showing the area of cumulative water drawdown for the Las Vegas Water Grab reminds me of that ad. The area to be dried up looks like a giant sore, stretching from near the southern edge of the Great Salt Lake, nearby the Goshute Reservation, extending southward through White Pine County, surrounding Great Basin National Park, through Lincoln County into northern Clark County, an area of 20,000 square miles. Imagine a comparable area in western Nevada from the Nevada-Oregon border to Bridgeport, Calif.

For years opponents of the Water Grab have sounded the alarm about the gargantuan 306 mile pipeline, a costly economic and ecological disaster draining the best from rural Nevada to fuel even worse growth and sprawl in Southern Nevada. It’s a no-brainer: mining groundwater under the high and low deserts of eastern Nevada will upset the hydrologic and ecologic balance to the detriment of people, plants and place.

Now BLM has released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Southern Nevada Water Authority’s “Groundwater Development Project” ( to disclose likely impacts from the Pump-a-Thon. While there are flaws in the document, BLM has duly analyzed impacts of pumping 177,000 acre feet of water per year for 75 years. Water Grab critics are vindicated; alarmingly, impacts are as bad as they predicted.

Consider these factoids: Pumping 58 billion gallons of water every year will drop the water table 50 to 200 feet in the first 75 years and the decline will continue after that, affecting 35 hydrologic basins and 344 individual ground and surface water rights.

The result is 305 springs and 112 miles of streams are at moderate to high risk; 24,000 tons of windblown dust every year (think Owens Valley). Goodbye agriculture, wetlands, wildlife, hunting, fishing.

For years our Congressional delegation has avoided the stark reality that the “Pipeline” project will create a sacrifice zone: Southern Nevada thrives; rural Nevada dries and dies. With the federal government’s own report now showing the extent of the devastation, how can our Congressional delegation continue to defend this destructive exorbitant boondoggle? It’s time for courageous leadership from Nevada’s senators and representatives to end the project and use their collective clout to help Southern Nevada promote meaningful conservation, endorse desalination and advance interstate agreements for mutual benefit of the Southwest. Otherwise, the legacy of our leaders in Congress will be the slow dusty death of the heart of rural Nevada.

• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.