Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Pat Mulroy’s article, “Diversity, balance needed for Nevada’s future” published Oct. 9, describes the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plea for permission to build a massive groundwater pipeline that will permanently alter the Great Basin environment, affect local communities and further destabilize economies across southcentral Nevada. This pipeline has nothing to do with “balance” in Nevada. My tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute, as well as other tribes in the Great Basin, have stewarded these valleys and springs for millennia, and we see this proposal as a direct threat to our very survival, as well as the natural balance found in these places today.
Diversity and balance are essential for a healthy economy and environment. The Goshute tribe’s reverence for these qualities are the reasons the Great Basin ecosystem has sustained Goshute people and culture for millennia. In the modern era, our isolation has benefited us and helped us to retain strong cultural ties to Goshute land and to our traditions, while maintaining a resolute determination to protect our ways. Ironically, water, which is the limiting resource of life within our basin, is the very thing Mulroy and the authority are seeking to extract from these lands.
SNWA’s groundwater pumping proposal affects far more than Mulroy’s stated need for diversity and balance in the future of Southern Nevada’s water needs. Goshute culture, spirituality and livelihoods are based on the diverse natural resources in the Great Basin, the most vital of which is water. A massive pipeline, groundwater extraction and the shipment of water from one basin to another will create instability in a precious ecosystem as well as in the communities and economies that rely on its fitness. Experts who have reviewed the environmental analysis behind SNWA’s proposal warn of water table draw downs, vegetation changes and loss, fugitive dust, ground subsidence, and wildlife displacement — all potential signs of an imbalanced relationship between pumping and environmental health.
Although this pipeline threatens Goshute water rights and the very future of our existence, Goshute land is not the only land that will be affected by this pipeline. Southern Nevadans should closely examine the impact this project will have on rural Nevada as well as their own culture and economy. This project, and the future of Las Vegas with its endless need for water, weighs heavily on the backs of all tribes, ranchers, and farmers who make the Great Basin their home.
The benefits of SNWA’s groundwater development project will not offset the unintended consequences that both our hydrologic studies as well as the BLM’s studies have professed. This top-down water project irrationally assumes long-term, environmentally stable conditions. The dynamic nature of groundwater recharge rates within the targeted basins are a $15 billion gamble, which the SNWA is willing to place on the behalf of the residents of Nevada and Utah as well as the health and stability of the environment.
Mulroy’s pipeline threatens Great Basin residents, but it will also place future residents of Southern Nevada at risk.
Water has fueled Las Vegas through the most spectacular economic boom and bust cycles seen in the U.S., not once, but several times in the past century. Mulroy is now selling the next boom on the backs of the people and environments of the Great Basin and Nevada. This boom promises to be followed by yet another bust. These pumps, too, will run dry.
Our spirits reflect the water we drink. Our elders teach us that Goshute water is old, slow moving and wise, just like our ancestors. The spirit of Las Vegas does not fit with Great Basin water. Water that is young, reckless and fast moving has shaped Las Vegas’ past. Las Vegas’ future is tied to water, but its application to drain the vast and beautiful basins of our homeland should be denied and forgotten.
Ed Naranjo is a council member and the administrator of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation in Utah.