Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008 | 2:08 a.m.
Gov. Jim Gibbons last week suggested scrapping an essential lifeline to Clark County that has been planned for nearly 20 years.
Fortunately, the governor alone cannot stop the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan to pump ground water from White Pine and Lincoln counties. The water is urgently needed to augment our supply from Lake Mead, whose level has dropped more than 100 feet since 2000.
The state engineer, courts and federal authorities will have the most say over whether the pipeline project is ultimately approved. State Engineer Tracy Taylor gave his blessing to a significant portion of the project last year.
Most of Gibbons’ support comes from Nevada’s rural areas, so it is not surprising that he would side with the ranchers and farmers who oppose the project. Still, a governor needs to assess what is best for the whole state.
We came out in support of the pipeline in 2006, after years of reviewing the plan and interviewing water officials to ensure that only excess water from untapped deep aquifers would be piped here. The farmers and ranchers draw their water from more shallow wells.
Laws governing the pipeline project would mandate steady monitoring of the deep aquifers to guard against any water loss that would alter the ranchers’ and farmers’ way of life.
As reported by the Lahontan Valley News, Gibbons told the Fallon Rotary Club a better plan would be for the state to aid in developing ocean desalinization plants in California, and then trade the water produced at those plants for some of California’s share of Colorado River water.
Unfortunately, the cost of building enough desalinization plants to put a dent in Nevada’s water needs is currently prohibitive. The truth is that desalinization will likely be needed someday in addition to, and not instead of, the pipeline.
A severe water shortage in Clark County could bring growth here to an end, plunging Nevada into crisis as jobs are lost and tax revenue plummets. Gibbons should be aware of that.