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For Immediate Release, April 24, 2012

Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821 or

Appeal Challenges Nevada Water Grab Threatening Dozens of Species

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity and more than 300 allies in the Great Basin Water Network are appealing a recent decision by the Nevada state engineer to allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump and pipe away up to 27 billion gallons of water annually from four rural valleys to feed urban development in Las Vegas.

The appeal, filed in state district court, casts further financial and legal uncertainty over a massive (and many observers say unnecessary) project that would cost well over $15.5 billion and cause devastating environmental impacts in an area of the Intermountain West larger than the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts combined. 

“The Water Authority’s groundwater development project is the single largest threat facing Nevada’s natural heritage, tribal traditional use and rural communities — now and far into the future,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center. “There are other, far better options for addressing southern Nevada’s water needs.”

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 harm 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 political pressure,” said Mrowka. “Robbing Nevada’s wildlife and rural communities of water to quench the insatiable thirst of Las Vegas is profoundly shortsighted.”

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 what is essentially groundwater mining. Other options available to it 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,” said 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.

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