Sunday, April 20, 2014 | 2 a.m.
When it comes to water issues in the West, if not the world, there are few people who can speak as authoritatively as Pat Mulroy.
When she retired this year after a full career as chief of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, she was rightly praised as a visionary leader and an astute and innovative water manager.
Her retirement was well deserved. She led the agency for more than two decades, and she left it in strong hands with capable leadership.
But with the state and the American West in a protracted drought, Mulroy’s voice is still desperately needed, so it was good news this past week that she was ending her retirement.
Mulroy accepted an appointment as a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution and Brookings Mountain West at UNLV. She’ll also serve as a faculty associate at the Desert Research Institute, the Nevada System of Higher Education’s research arm. Mulroy will work on water, climate and environmental issues.
Mulroy will deepen the three institutions’ expertise on water issues, and as a senior fellow, she’ll be able to turn her attention to research and policy issues.
At Brookings, one of the nation’s top think tanks, she’ll add to an already deep list of experts, focusing on something the group hasn’t done: water and infrastructure needs caused by climate change.
In her new role, she should be able to continue to lead the discussion on water issues. As Don Snyder, UNLV’s acting president, put it: “There is no greater voice in the area of water resource policy in America.”
Indeed. She shaped SNWA into an agency known for its innovation, and she helped mold water policy in the American West. Along the way, she earned an international reputation as a leader in water issues.
Tom Skancke, president of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, said, “You go around the world and talk about water, and they say, ‘Wow, you have Pat Mulroy.’ ”
Her work with Brookings, UNLV and DRI will be important in any number of ways, but especially here in Nevada. She understands the arcane law that governs Colorado River water use and has a pulse on the needs of other states in the region.
A fierce advocate for the state, Mulroy provided the water that led to Southern Nevada’s growth. And she did it smartly, finding creative ways to bring more water home. She formed creative partnerships with other states and was able to leverage the water the region had through conservation efforts. Mulroy is widely respected.
But her work won’t be confined to Nevada. No longer responsible for the water authority, Mulroy will have a broader platform to help other states and countries as well. A student of water issues, she can speak knowledgeably about situations throughout the nation and world. And her experience here will be a benefit. As she told the Las Vegas Sun, “The challenges that the Western United States are facing are being faced around the world.”
There’s nobody better equipped to tackle those challenges than Mulroy.