For Immediate Release, March 22, 2012
Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821 or email@example.com
Nevada Groundwater Ruling May Doom Dozens of Species
LAS VEGAS— The Nevada State Engineer today announced a decision to grant water rights to the Southern Nevada Water Authority that would allow it to pump groundwater from Spring, Cave, Dry and Delamar valleys and transport it through a pipeline to Las Vegas. Resulting groundwater depletions would dry up springs, creeks and upland plant communities — a disaster for rural communities, native plants and animals, and all people who care about them.
“The winner in today’s ruling is mindless Las Vegas growth, while biodiversity, rural residents and future generations are the clear losers,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center. “There are other, better options for addressing southern Nevada’s long-term water needs.”
In light of the threat posed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans, the Center for Biological Diversity in 2009 filed a formal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to federally protect 35 springsnails unique to the Great Basin as threatened or endangered; today’s decision could impact twenty-five of those species.
A 2011 Bureau of Land Management draft environmental impact statement analyzing the pipeline project predicted that groundwater pumping would damage more than 300 springs and more than 120 miles of stream, as well as harming species like the Bonneville cutthroat trout, frogs, desert fish and springsnails; it also predicted that sage grouse, mule deer and elk would suffer major declines due to disappearing habitat.
“The state engineer is ignoring science and bending to the winds of political pressure,” said Mrowka.“ Robbing Nevada’s wildlife and rural communities of water to quench the insatiable thirst of Las Vegas is profoundly shortsighted.”
In December, the Center delivered more than 21,200 public comments to the state engineer opposing granting of the water rights. If approved in its entirety, the pipeline project would siphon 57 million gallons of water a year away from rural Nevada and Utah, and would cost rate payers more than $15.5 billion dollars, according to a study commissioned by the Water Authority.
The Water Authority has never produced an analysis comparing the costs, benefits and risks of the various alternatives to the pipeline, opting instead to pursue groundwater-mining. Other options available to the Water Authority for providing future water include aggressive conservation and investment in modern water appliances and devices.
“The state engineer failed in his duties by not requiring the Water Authority to consider alternatives before approving rights to pump the groundwater, concluded Mrowka.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 350,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.