For Immediate Release, August 26, 2011
Clark County Called on to Withdraw Support for Disastrous SNWA Water Project
LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity, Great Basin Water Network and Nevada Conservation League today called on the Clark County Commission to withdraw its support for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s massive groundwater pipeline project. If approved, the project would siphon billions of gallons of water away from rural Nevada and Utah to fuel unsustainable urban growth in southern Nevada, unleashing vast environmental, economic and social harm.
“Aside from being a financial boondoggle, the water authority’s proposed pipeline would destroy Nevada’s priceless natural heritage and huge swaths of rural communities,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center. “There are other, better options for addressing southern Nevada’s long-term water needs.”
Earlier this week a fiscal analysis produced by Las Vegas-based Hobbs, Ong & Associates pegged the cost of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s water project at nearly $15.5 billion — which would saddle millions of ratepayers in Clark County with huge costs for water services for generations. The SNWA has variously reported publicly that the cost for the project, which would initially include more than 300 miles of pipelines and dozens of well sites in rural, east-central Nevada, at $2 billion to $3.6 billion. Average monthly water bills for residents would increase from $36 to more than $90.
“We are not opposed to continued growth in southern Nevada,” said Scot Rutledge, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, “but in fact support the prioritized development in our urban cores. The days of building thousands of homes on the edge of the valley are over. New single-family home water hook-ups will be scarce, a point both recognized by SNWA and various developers throughout the valley. Denser, more transit-oriented development will benefit constituents and our environment.”
The draft environmental impact statement prepared by the Bureau of Land Management for the pipeline project disclosed that major vegetation and ecosystem changes would occur on more than 200,000 acres, including wetlands that will dry up and wildlife shrubland habitat converted to dryland grasses and noxious weeds. More than 300 springs would also be hurt, along with more than 120 miles of streams. Species such as the Bonneville cutthroat trout, sage grouse, mule deer and elk would suffer major declines as their habitats disappear.
“It doesn’t make sense to rob Nevada’s wildlife and these rural areas of the water they need just to quench the thirst of unsustainable growth, whether it’s Las Vegas or Coyote Springs,” said Mrowka. “It’s time for our county and municipal leaders to start talking about creating sustainable communities in the face of dwindling water supplies and a hotter, drier climate. Clearly the old paradigm of a growth-driven economy has failed and will not lead to a promising future.”
“There are real and viable options for securing water for southern Nevada’s future that have not been adequately vetted by the SNWA but should be,” said Susan Lynn, director of the Great Basin Water Network. “Among them, aggressive conservation and investment in modern and efficient indoor and outdoor water appliances and devices, expanded development of ocean desalinization, reworking the sorely outdated laws governing the Colorado River’s water, and perhaps even the SNWA’s general manager’s suggestion of diversion of the flood waters of the Mississippi.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.