August 14, 2009

Utah, Nevada divide up Snake Valley water

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After four years of negotiation, Utah and Nevada have come up with a plan to divvy up water reserves from the Snake Valley. The controversial plan would divide whatever water has not yet been allocated from the aquifer equally between the states. Critics said the plan is flawed and could disrupt an already fragile water equilibrium, drying up meadows and triggering dust storms, writes Patty Henetz of the Salt Lake Tribune. Proponents say the water-sharing agreement is necessary to maintain growth in the Las Vegas area.

Water wars go way back in the West, but water stewardship is also critical to its future, as Interior SecretaryKen Salazar says here in this recent video clip from the Billings Gazette.

Such decisions deserve careful thought, and at least the most recent proposal postpones until 2019 a final decision on a 285-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline that would slake thirsty Las Vegas.

“The point is to avoid a water war that would have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Henetz writes from her interview with Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

The agreement includes a $3 million “mitigation fund,” but that couldn’t begin to mitigate the real problems.

 “You can’t drink dollar bills,” said Steve Erickson, a Utah resident speaking for the Great Basin Water Network and quoted in the Tribune’s story. “Once the water’s gone, it’s gone.”

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