Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s proposed water pipeline project is ill-conceived, morally and ethically wrong and unneeded.
The pipeline, and especially the ancient groundwater to fill it, would destroy natural ecosystems and human communities far beyond the physical locations of the pipeline or well locations.
The fossil groundwater would be pumped from aquifers that are connected systems, and impacts in one basin would have far-reaching impacts on the rest of the basins of the system.
Groundwater elevations would drop 200 feet and land surface subsidence would occur over a 3,000-square-mile area. Over 200,000 acres of wildlife habitat would be converted into a desert dustbowl, and hundreds of native species of plants and animals would be faced with extirpation or extinction.
Over 37,000 tons of new dust per year would be generated, and unrivaled clouds of dust would carry radioactive materials deposited from atomic weapons tests to a new generation of downwinders.
Water that might have gone to foster local economic health and development, including water needed by proposed solar renewable energy zones, would be “stolen” to fuel unsustainable growth in the greater Las Vegas Valley.
The true irony and shame is that SNWA doesn’t need to spend the estimated $15.5 billion on this project to meet its current and reasonable future needs. Enough water to meet needs far into the future could be obtained through enhanced indoor and outdoor conservation. Further into the future, new sources of water could be obtained from desalinization of ocean and other brackish water and possible augmentation of the Colorado River system with imported Mississippi River flood waters, among other options.
The author is an ecologist and conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.