Rural counties should avoid being locked out of groundwater use

Rural Nevada counties should be careful with whom they form alliances. This past week two federal lawsuits were filed with the same intended purpose and with many of the same arguments proffered — trying to reverse the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to grant right of way for 300 miles of pipeline to allow Las Vegas to tap groundwater from eastern Nevada valleys. The two suits are expected to be combined at some point.

In a parallel case, a state judge’s decision blocking the project is on appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

One 32-page federal suit was filed by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity and the other 75-pager by a coalition of local governments, private organizations and Indian tribes. Among the plaintiffs in the latter case are White Pine County, the Great Basin Water Network, the Sierra Club and the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority, which addresses water resource issues for Churchill, Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Lander, Nye, Pershing and White Pine counties or about 65 percent of the land in Nevada, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column in The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

While the counties expressly want to preserve the groundwater for their own future economic growth, including for mining, ranching, farming and recreational use, some of the plaintiff groups likely would oppose just about any use of any water anywhere that might in anyway harm any animal, bird, snail, snake or minnow that might walk, crawl, fly, slither or swim across the Great Basin.

The suit backed by the counties points out that the bid by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to tap 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year could have far-reaching impact.

According to state engineer records the groundwater in Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys are linked to the White River Flow System and drawing down the water table in those valleys could affect water resources as far away as Pahranagat Valley, Lake Valley, Muddy River Springs Valley, Lower Moapa Valley, and Coyote Spring Valley.

“The proposed pumping would amount to a devastating groundwater mining project, under which the groundwater system would not even begin to approach equilibrium for thousands of years, with the potential of never reaching equilibrium,” the suit by the counties contends.

In a press release accompanying the filing of the lawsuits, one of the plaintiffs revealed his group’s aims. Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “Congress passed these laws to make sure our public lands are managed on the basis of multiple use, to protect irreplaceable cultural and natural resources for current and future generations. They exist so that the needs of future generations of Americans can be taken into account — not just short-term economic growth and greed.” (Emphasis added.)

The counties’ attorneys need to make sure their fellow plaintiffs from the environmental organizations don’t win a decision that locks the counties out of tapping the groundwater for local miners, ranchers, farmers and residents.

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko site.

6 comments on “Rural counties should avoid being locked out of groundwater use

  1. The SNWA water pipe Project will undoubtedly be a financial bonanza for politicians and their allies. Billions of dollars of taxpayers (ratepayers) money will be looted and ripped off… More conservation….and, let me repeat …more conservation in the Las Vegas Valley should be the approach (try to take a SHOWER with someone or use water efficient toilets or limit natural grass use for lawns)..

  2. Peter Geohagen says:

    Yup. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

  3. […] rights arbiter in Nevada, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan draw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater would affect the water table outside the valleys that would be tapped. Groundwater in Cave, Dry Lake and […]

  4. […] arbiter in Nevada, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan to draw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater would affect the water table outside the valleys that would be tapped. Groundwater in Cave, Dry Lake and […]

  5. […] 75-page lawsuit filed earlier this year by a coalition of local governments, private organizations and Indian […]

  6. […] A 75-page lawsuit filed earlier this year by a coalition of local governments, private organizations and Indian tribes made this point but without having precise figures to support their suspicions. Among the plaintiffs in the case are White Pine County, the Great Basin Water Network, the Sierra Club and the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority, which addresses water resource issues for Churchill, Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Lander, Nye, Pershing and White Pine counties or about 65 percent of the land in Nevada. […]

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