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Las Vegas to Survive on East Nevada’s Groundwater

Las Vegas to Survive on East Nevada’s Groundwater

Nevada authorities have approved a controversial plan to pump groundwater from the state’s east 300 miles to Las Vegas.

Building on a network of pipelines and pumping stations striking out from Las Vegas to four valleys in eastern Nevada could start in two years. Approval from the federal Bureau of Land Management remains to be given for the pipeline route.

One of the beneficiaries of the project would be a new, golf course based city in Coyote Spring Valley in the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada.

Drought conditions on Lake Mead, where Las Vegas currently gets almost all its drinking water, and decisions by elected officials on the authority board will decide the timing, John Entsminger, of the Southern Nevada Water Authority told Deseret News.

“Not having water to supply 2 million people [in Vegas] is not an option,” Entsminger said. “This project is fundamental to the survival of this community. We have to have options available to secure the water supply under any scenario.”

Cost is estimated at $3 billion to $15 billion.

Nevada has promised to “go slow,” taking a “cautious approach to ensure there are no adverse environmental effects.” However, a editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune described the scheme as “folly” and warned that:

The trouble with this approach is that, unlike surface water in a river, the effects of underground pumping often are not immediately seen. Plants could die off only slowly. Once the damage is apparent, however, it may be irreversible, and the political pressure to keep pumping water south, particularly after Las Vegas had invested billions in the pipeline project, would be enormous. The complaints of a few ranchers in Nevada and the people of Utah would not count for much.

By the time experts figure out that an environmental catastrophe may be in the making, it could be too late to stop it.

According to The Great Basin Water Network, studies have shown that the Las Vegas area could generate half the water planned to be pumped by more rigorous water conservation.

Cattle ranchers, Native American tribes, and Mormon enterprises in the valleys say that pumping the groundwater on such a scale could result in the water table dropping 75 feet and turn the region into a dustbowl.

Rancher Hank Vogler told the Las Vegas Review Journal that no amount of safeguards can protect rural Nevada once the pipeline is built and the water starts flowing south.

“I don’t think there’s anyone with a big enough checkbook to stop it then. No one is going to have the appetite to say, ‘Oh, shucks, we made a $15 billion mistake. Let’s shut it down.’ ”

If anything, Vogler said, the authority’s pipeline network will only spread to other parts of the state as more water is needed to feed the growth that many expect to return to Las Vegas.

“I’m what I’ve been calling myself all along: nothing more than collateral damage,” he said.

Find out more about the threats from the water project from The Great Basin Water Network.

Related stories:

Mining Pollutes the World’s Waterways

Polluters Dump 226 Million Pounds of Toxins into U.S. Rivers

5 Ways to Increase Water and Food Security (Slideshow)

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Photo credit: Bellagio (hotel and casino), Wikipedia

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43 comments

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1:04PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

they aren't going to close it down, even if it is dump of the USA. Hookers, strippers, gambling, drugs, high crime rate, it's good tax dollars

10:34AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Conservation and recycling is the only way to go..Here in the Los Angeles area, they use reclaimed water .

6:09AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Las Vegas should be closed down! It is a waste of precious resources; oil, power and water, for no good purpose. Closing Las Vegas would not even effect employment in the U.S.A. The people who go there, to waste their excess dollars, would spend those dollars elsewhere, creating employment in other, more sustainable, areas of the country. It has always amazed me how anyone could have thought to establish a town, solely devoted to a pointless form of entertainment, in the middle of a vast desert. Now, to spend up to $15 billion to supply such a place with water is an act of madness which will completely destroy the ecology of the surrounding area.

7:40PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Venetian casino in Las Vegas, has been the major contributor ($15 million) to Newt Gingrinch's campaign, and is looking to put that much and more into the Repiglican presidential campaign.

Just saying.

4:22PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Maybe we shouldn't have built a city there to begin with. I have never been there and probably will not visit.

3:14PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

There was a proposition awhile ago to take water from our Great Lakes and pipe it west for Vegas. The folks here, Ohio, etc., put it out. I can't see this as a solution, either.

Now, 'use less', that would be a start.

12:43PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Sounds like Las Vegas will be the beginning of the war on water....once the ground water in the eastern part of the state is gone, where will they take from next?

11:07AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Las Vegas is a cancer on the skin of the country. Every time I see anything about that cesspool I question how long it can exist in the middle of the desert.
Now we see how. By destroying everything around it and if this isn't cancer then what is it? When I see those ridiculous lights on the main street I wonder how much power it takes to create such an overblown concept of a city.
Las Vegas is an excellent example of greed at it's worst. The Colorado is already close to being sucked dry. They should figure out how to deal with this problem themselves and stop relying on other people and other states to supply their insatiable need.

10:54AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Lost Wages Nevada, aka Vegas, is one of the most glaring examples of how humanity is NOT an intelligent species. The way water is used there, is criminal.

It's only a matter of time before people clue in & realize that it's a losing battle & no matter what they do, Las Vegas will eventually have NO water at all.

10:53AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Look at Los Angeles. That city takes water from the Colorado River. I have observed LA power and water vehicles at Hoover dam.

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