Las Vegas Sun

February 21, 2019

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Water Authority scales back rural water request

CARSON CITY — The Southern Nevada Water Authority has scaled back its request for water rights in rural Nevada and suggested some water be set aside for growth in the four rural valleys where the water resides.

In its recommendation, the authority said 104,854 acre-feet should be allocated from Eastern Nevada for the needs of Southern Nevada. That's down from its initial request of 125,975 acre-feet.

The Water Authority recommends the state engineer set aside 450 acre-feet in the valleys to accommodate future growth or agricultural needs.

The authority submitted a proposed ruling Friday for state Engineer Jason King to consider when he makes his decision by the end of March.

The Water Authority has argued that it needs additional water to meet population growth in Southern Nevada. "There are simply no additional groundwater resources available in the Las Vegas Valley to meet Southern Nevada's water needs," said the authority.

The authority said King's ruling should state that the rural water "does not belong exclusively to the inhabitants of that basin. Instead, the water belongs to the people of the state of Nevada."

There were more than 100 protests to the applications, and the major players will submit their recommended ruling by Monday. There were 84 witnesses and more than 10,000 pages of exhibits at the public hearing last year.

Opponents suggested Las Vegas implement more water conservation measures. The authority said there are limits now on landscape watering and sanctions on those who permit water to run down the street or onto another property. Fines can be levied up to $5,000 for chronic violators. More than $400,000 in fines were collected in one year.

The authority says the state engineer must consider the public interest in making his decision. The state is heavily dependent on the economy of the Las Vegas area.

It says, "A 10.5 percent decline in water supply in Southern Nevada will result in a decrease of the economic output of Southern Nevada by $9.6 billion, a loss of 84,000 jobs and a decline in wages and salaries of $3 billion."

The authority suggests the state engineer reserve 50 acre-feet in valleys of Delamar, Cave and Dry Lake and 300 acre-feet in Spring Valley.

In Spring Valley, the authority wants the engineer to allocate 76,931 acre-feet but the water would be withdrawn in four stages. The authority is suggesting it be allocated 6,541 acre-feet in Delamar Valley; 9,785 acre-feet in Cave Valley and 11,584 in Dry Lake Valley.

The authority estimates the cost of a pipeline to bring the water to Las Vegas at $6.4 billion.

It suggests the engineer also require the authority to keep tabs on the withdrawals and whether it damages the environment or cuts into existing water rights.

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