Farming in Callao

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Arizona water, Nevada out-of-control growth

The feisty folks in the Beaver Dam, Arizona area are wondering why Mesquite, Nevada developers want Arizona water when the local Mesquite water authority, the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD), already has enough water for 5 times the current Mesquite population.

They especially want to know why the VVWD would willingly make an annual donation of 5,000 acre feet of water to Las Vegas Valley's SNWA if there is such a crying need to import water from Arizona to Mesquite. According to SNWA's web site, it resulted from one of SNWA's agreements, the likes of which they want rural Nevadans and the state of Utah to enter into -- all in the name of "water sharing" and ensuring that "future municipal water supplies will exist for the VVWD."

In other words, if you don't "partner" with us, we'll steamroller you. Such an agreement with Nevada's Lincoln County led that county to roll over and play dead in SNWA's pipeline scheme. Four federal Department of Interior agencies recently signed a stipulation agreement which resulted in withdrawing well application protests in exchange for a toothless monitoring process of talk, talk, talk, talk as environmental impacts develop. They have the other Colorado River states agreeing to almost anything to avoid a legal showdown over the Colorado River Compact.

SNWA has had lots of practice fine-tuning their strategy of agreements. They seem to be the 1,000-pound gorilla in whatever room they enter. Even though the UT-NV agreement mandated in public law 108-424 specifies direct negotiations between the two states, SNWA presence hovers over the agreement.

BTW - Thanks No Nevada Water Grab Committee for the link to this blog .


SNWA announcement

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Snake Valley budget - enough?

While several news stories have covered Governor Huntsman's proposed budget, it took a little digging to find anything about Snake Valley. In a PDF file detailing the Natural Resources budget, was this on page 119:

Expand monitoring of water resources
• Continue Division of Water Rights groundwater studies, concentrating on Utah and Nevada border water issues with $355,000 supplemental General Fund

Previously officials in the DNR had proposed a series of 13 monitor / test wells costing about $1 million. DNR chief Mike Styler had urged the Interim Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment to authorize that much for the project.

While we are grateful for the governor's support in so many ways, as well as that of the Legislature, this does not seem like enough money to ensure we get adequate baseline data prior to pumping. It certainly seems insufficient to study aquifer characteristics if SNWA's massive water exportation proposal were ever to begin taking water from the basin.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Chalk one for David over Goliath

Chalk one for David over Goliath

In Justices find argument for raiding Sandy Valley Basin doesn't hold water (Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nov. 29, 2006) John L. Smith reported a Nevada Supreme Court decision overturning a Nevada State Engineer decision approving an interbasin transfer of water for development in Primm. Residents of Sandy Valley, from which the water was to have been exported, rejoiced after their seven-year, against-the-odds victory.

The developer, Primm South Real Estate Company, had hired Vidler Water Company to handle their water applications. State Engineer Hugh Ricci (since retired) granted Vidler 415 acre-feet of water (out of Vidler's original request for 1,400 AF) based on Primm South's assertions they needed the full amount of water even though they could not currently use it all. Some was for future development. (During the water rights hearing, a Primm South executive stated, "if we can't use it we'll sell it".)

The state Supreme Court rejected the idea of speculation. District Judge David Wall upheld the state Engineer's decision, forcing Sandy Valley residents to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Along the way, the residents' original attorney died after a lengthy illness. Al Marquis, who owns the Kingston Ranch in the valley, stepped up and represented the community's successful appeal. The community raised $60,000 to fight the giant.

The justices found Ricci had, "failed to properly consider the evidence in determining the need for water in the import basin" and "failed to make the appropriate findings, his decision to grant Vidler Water's interbasin groundwater transfer application was not supported by substantial evidence."

Perhaps the NV State Engineer will invest a little extra time and thought into the decisions before him, related to SNWA's proposal. SNWA has requested 90,000 AF from Spring Valley (adjacent to Snake Valley) and almost 200,000 AF from all the basins from which it wants to export water. Southern Nevada won't need that much water until mid-century, however, even at their current out-of-control growth rate and their excessively high per capita water usage.

The Supreme Court's opinion quoted above could just as easily apply to SNWA's scheme for mining water from eastern Nevada and Western Utah.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

White Pine County land bill -- just add water

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a news story today titled, "WHITE PINE COUNTY: County may pull support from lands bill." Why would the White Pine County Commission withhold support from the White Pine County bill? Water, and the study thereof. They want BARCASS 2, a follow up study to fill in the gaps BARCASS 1 was never intended to investigate.

BARCASS 2 would study the impacts of SNWA's proposed water withdrawal scheme. That would be nice to know. Some even think it is vital. Hence WPC Commission's lack of support for the WPC bill, which otherwise has many positive aspects the county wants. They think the water study is that important.

Ironically, it was water in Clark County, home of Las Vegas, that was the last straw. The WPC bill was loaded with Clark County water projects totaling almost $1 billion, including some that would encourage the out-of-control growth driving the pipeline. BARCASS 2 would cost no more than $20 million.

This is a good opportunity to write the Utah Congressional delegation asking them to support efforts to secure BARCASS 2 authorization and funding.

The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch
United States Senate
104 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4402
DC Phone: 202-224-5251
DC Fax: 202-224-6331
Email Address:

The Honorable Robert F. Bennett
United States Senate
431 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4403
DC Phone: 202-224-5444
DC Fax: 202-228-1168
Email Address:

The Honorable Rob Bishop
United States House of Representatives
124 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4401
DC Phone: 202-225-0453
DC Fax: 202-225-5857
Email Address:

The Honorable James D. Matheson
United States House of Representatives
1222 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4402
DC Phone: 202-225-3011
DC Fax: 202-225-5638
Email Address:

The Honorable Christopher Cannon
United States House of Representatives
2436 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4403
DC Phone: 202-225-7751
DC Fax: 202-225-5629
Email Address:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another NV water grab = a web site dedicated to fighting the Mesquite water grab into Arizona. Different water grab from ours but the same kind of thirsty, arrogant developers seeking water for growth's sake --and the same kind of tough grass roots resistance.

Wind River Resources is affiliated with Nevada developers who want to drill on a small parcel of land they own near Beaver Dam, Arizona and pump approximately 4.5 billion gallons of water annually to Virgin Valley Water District in Mesquite, Nevada. This proposal is before the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR).

Wind River Resources claims the impact of pumping water to Nevada will be minimal. But their application quotes an expert report: “We believe the Muddy Creek Formation [at the Beaver Dam Wash] in the Virgin River Valley aquifer system is highly susceptible to subsidence.”

Besides the risk of desiccation and subsidence, the people near Beaver Dam risk arsenic contamination of their water. By pumping in clean Arizona water, Mesquite's arsenic-laden water will be diluted, without having to build a water treatment plant. But part of the plan is to flush contaminated water back into Arizona's aquifer.

This is a similar story and will only recur more often in the future. Thirsty desert cities demanding water from rural basins always whining about their critical urban needs while dismissing rural concerns as emotional babbling. BTW - Mesquite developers have previously made attempts on southern Utah's water.

You can subscribe for e-mail updates at

Monday, November 20, 2006

BLM EIS update pending

I wrote to the BLM Environmental Impact Study project manager, Penny Woods, asking when she might have another update meeting in store for Snake Valley. Below is her reply. Her answer gives an outline of planned events and promises to keep the public posted.

__ reply from Penny Woods __

Hi Ken! I think early March might be a good time. We will have started working on some of the hydrology data and interpretation and we will have a couple of meetings with the cooperating agencies behind us that I can update you on. Would this work for you?

We intend on sending out a mailer within the next 60 days which may update folks in the interim.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Snake Valley & Owens Valley

In Rhetoric debunked (11-8-06) Bill Roberts paints a lavish picture of Owens Valley. It makes one want to move there.

He starts out, "Inflammatory rhetoric is all the rage in water wars." So he intended to introduce some boosterism to counteract it. He says he lived briefly in Owens Valley about 25 years ago and wanted to go back and see the damage everyone bemoans. He was shocked to see it pretty much as it was 25 years ago, with areas of lush green. He claims to have talked to residents who gave a glowing picture of idyllic life in Owens Valley.

Most of the people he depends on for quotes are connected to chambers of commerce. It may be in their best interests to debunk the message of devastation and desiccation. They are paid to put the best face on their communities. Roberts, too, seems full of the spirit of boosterism both for a depleted Owens Valley and for the water grab. I am surprised he didn't nominate the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for an ecology award. He seems to be poised to put SNWA on a pedestal for their water exportation scheme.

Roberts describes Owens Valley as "lush." Maybe there are lush areas. But it obviously cannot be the same place it formerly was with so much of its water exported over so many years. That doesn't make sense. And even a few isolated verdant spots is a far cry from widespread agriculture that I assume is gone or greatly diminished.

It is not as if he had lived in Owens Valley prior to William Mulholland's rape of the valley. Roberts briefly lived there after both surface water and groundwater exportation. It may well have looked similar in the 25 years between when he lived there and when he returned. That indicates the stagnant nature of the economy there, the lack of a vibrant future.

Owens Lake is one of the worst environmental problems in US history. Doctors in Owens Valley have documented much higher rates of respiratory problems than the national average, at much earlier ages. By some accounts, it is impossible to dust proof homes.

Mr. Roberts' anecdotal evidence about Owens Valley does not make those of us who live in Snake Valley ashamed to make connections to Owens Valley and SNWA's water exportation scheme. Just as Mulholland was a shill for Los Angeles, Las Vegas has its shills. They are getting increasingly shrill.

Future posts will cover the Snake Valley - Owens Valley connection in more detail.

Owens Valley Committee

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Critical Mass and the Depopulation of Spring Valley

by Cecil Garland (Callao, Utah)

[Note: Spring Valley, Nevada, is the next valley west of Snake Valley, also a target of the Las Vegas water grab. SNWA has begun buying ranches in Spring Valley.]

Critical mass in physics is the amount of material that must be present before a chain reaction can sustain itself. Critical mass has also come to mean the size or scale at which a community acquires self-sustaining viability.

Spring Valley, in eastern Nevada, has for over a hundred years been a community of ranchers living not close together, but close enough form friendships and, of course, some animosity but always a community willing to help each other in times of need. Ranching communities are like no other in that living two to 10 miles apart, they do come together often enough to maintain an ongoing critical mass so that they can continue their way of life. The recent purchasing of ranches in Spring Valley at highly inflated prices by Southern Nevada Water Authority is destroying that critical sense of viability. SNWA must know that what they do is destructive to the ranching community and are doing so deliberately. Ranchers need a relationship with their neighbors that is both lasting and mutually beneficial as has been the case in Spring Valley.

Ranchers work together in the spring to gather, brand, mark, vaccinate, and castrate their calves, and in the fall they work together to wean and ship the calves. Helping each other in these endeavors is a long established necessary tradition. Together they build and repair fences. They borrow, rent and exchange machinery, tools and help each other during haying. When going to town, one party may do a multitude of chores for a neighbor saving him a long, expensive trip to town. Older ranchers also depend on the younger people for help which is most often given freely and cheerfully. Phone calls, visits, trips together, social events, and church, the fabric that holds people together, is being torn apart. When ranches are sold to buyers that have no intentions of ranching or replacing the family, then the chain of sustainability and viability is weakened and finally broken. Uneasiness and apprehension will begin to take place in the minds of those who want to remain on the land. Questions will arise. Should I sell now while I can get a big price?

Is it inevitable that SNWA with all their power and wealth will take our water and then will our ranches be nearly worthless? Will our government really protect us, or in fact, can they?

When a valley is being settled by a pioneering, often reclusive individual, there is optimism. The first settlers knew well that others would follow, and that other ranches would come in time. When ranches begin to sell as they are doing today, the opposite psychological effects begin to happen. A foreboding gloom can become pervasive and constant with worry about what is next. Will there be any ranches or community left in a few years? Would any young folks want to come back to the valley? Will the roads, phone service, schools and school buses be maintained or possibly abandoned? It is understandable that young people would be reluctant to return to a valley stripped of its sense of community and the accepted amenities and necessities. These and many more questions of uncertainty are being raised.

Current events of endless hearings and deliberations, often by people who are alien to the ranching way of life, are lessons in how to destroy the critical mass of a valley. These circumstances will send ranching people into burgeoning cities where they are likely to be discontent and unhappy, longing deep in their hearts and souls for the space, the beauty, and the cohesiveness of their former community now gone like the cowboy riding into the sunset.


Cecil C.and Annette H.Garland
Rafter Lazy C Ranch
Callao 225 Pony Express Road
Callao, Utah via Wendover 84083

[Please comment on this post if you wish to contact Cecil by e-mail.]


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nevada trumps everyone

In an Arizona Republic story called Nevada builder wants Arizona town's water (10-24-06) *, Mark Shaffer reports that a Nevada corporation wants Arizona to grant them water rights to drill wells in Arizona and export as much as 14,000 acre-feet of water a year (afy) to Mesquite, NV.

Mesquite is primed to grow rapidly in the near future. The Arizona water is for drinking and diluting current Mesquite water which is high in arsenic. Mesquite currently has 12,000 afy but only uses about half. Their current water rights would serve about 45,000 people. Some treated water may then be exported back to Arizona. As an Arizona official said, "This falls very squarely into the category of a bad idea."

Arizona law allows water to be taken out of Arizona, although permits may be granted for no more than 50 years.

A public hearing will be held by the Arizona Water Resources Department in late November. But lawyers for Mesquite are complaining about delay, saying Mesquite has a "need of certainty of their future water supply."

Some locals are not convinced. They have a deep-rooted feeling that Arizona water should be available for Arizona growth and to keep the environment from deteriorating.

This would be an unprecedented scheme driven by insatiable appetite for water, much like that being experienced in Las Vegas. In Nevada, the gambling capital of the US, the wealthy and powerful want certainty. They don't want to gamble with water supplies and risk chocking the economic engines they've artificially created. They are, however, willing to gamble with other people's water and environment and livelihoods.

Some Nevada politicians and pundits have suggested a statewide water authority -- along the lines of SNWA -- to control the water resources of the state. Some have even gone beyond that to suggest regional water authorities covering multiple states. The SNWA model has worked well to keep out-of-control growth supplied with water. It certainly would clear the way for Mesquite developers to get their hot little hands on Arizona's water.

Something has to be done to keep water flowing throughout the West.

For some the answer is to do whatever it takes to get water where people are enticed to cluster in mega cities where congestion, pollution, crime, and other side effects of growth causing increasing numbers of residents to plead, "Make it stop!"

For others, the answer is conservation and then desalination as that technology rapidly improves in cost, energy efficiency, and environmental safety.

As Callao rancher Cecil Garland asks, "Is the future of the west a series of lush mega cities surrounded by desiccated basins?"

* (The news story requires a free registration to view.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Snake Valley wells

In answer to a request, Utah water rights division chief Boyd Clayton wrote:

Our records indicate there are 257 wells or potential wells in Snake Valley. This includes water rights which are developed and those that are approved and may not be developed yet.

Reservoir Hogs

In Reservoir Hogs (Salt Lake City Weekly, 10-26-06) Ted McDonough summarizes the struggle between Snake Valley and Las Vegas. He waxes lyrical abaout Snake Valley and the Deep Creek Mountains and delves into the many obstacles faced by Utah ranches and puts the issue in context of other regional happenings.

Much of the article is a primer: excellent for those who don't have an extensive background. A couple of points, however, were put in fresh terms or were new to me (and I live and breath this issue).

For example, the Utah Geological Survey's Stefan Kirby says the water (possibly significant amounts) under the Snake Valley might not replace itself if taken out; it may have been put down in prehistoric times. He said the area’s complex rock structure possibly carries mountain runoff sideways miles away before going to ground.

Kirby also said Nevada’s wells will be placed precisely at the point where water from mountain creeks slips underground and makes its way into Utah. Previously the UGS warned of a drop in the water table near Garrison of more than 100 feet, possibly drying up springs 30 miles into Utah and certainly making it more difficult for farmers to economically continue to irrigate. Such drawdowns would certainly kill off much of the current ground cover, increasing the risk of massive dust storms, possibly carrying radioactive materials left over in the soils from the nuclear testing days. Such drawdowns could disrupt flow into the Great Salt Lake, possibly causing brackish water to reverse flow into Snake Valley -- forever ruining the aquifer.

There were some pretty strong words from Utah Department of Natural Resources chief Mike Styler, who heads the negotiation team in the UT-NV agreement negotiations. He reassured that stiff monitoring and safeguards will be included. He also said what Snake Valley residents have been saying from the beginning -- that there is no surplus water. He said, “The amount of water available is so limited I think it will be marginal for southern Nevada to put a pipeline in [to Snake Valley].”

According to Mr. Styler, Utah and Nevada water officials estimated how much of the valley’s water is already being used. The answer, Styler said, appears to be all of it.

This news story is recommended reading.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

2 new reports

Two reports were released yesterday (10-24-06) that are of interest to opponents of the Las Vegas water grab.

Las Vegas & The Groundwater Development Project -- Where does it start? - Where will it end? is a report written by Christina Roessler and produced by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN).

Water in the Urban Southwest -- An updated Analysis of Water use in Albuquerque, Las Vegas Valley, and Tucson was written and edited by Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, Bart Miller, and Anita Schwartz
Western Resources Advocates and sponsored in association with PLAN.

The first report examines the Las Vegas groundwater project in context of water issues throughout the West, where water for municipalities is getting increasingly hard to find and rural basins are being targeted for water supplies. The report highlights missing "key facts" and unknowns in SNWA's plan to raid water in rural Nevada and Utah.

The project's pricetag is one area the report focuses on. The report indicates that major costs, such as the electric power infrastructure, are not adequately included in SNWA's budget. SNWA repeatedly quotes a figure of $2 billion for the project. According to a Las Vegas Sun news story an SNWA spokesman now says cost estimates top $3.6 and include all power needs, construction contingencies, and inflation (assuming major construction begins in 2010). This is a somewhat different story to that told by SNWA in 2005 when it announced its capital expenditures. The party line then was that the basic cost would be $2 billion but that financing costs would raise the pricetag to $3.6 billion.

Without an accurate pricetag, the BLM will be severely handicapped in its legally mandated responsibility to identify reasonable alternatives in its Environmental Impact Study, currently underway.

The report also says that if Las Vegas were to diminish its per capita consumption of water to the levels attained by Tucson it could save more water than the 180,000 acre-feet SNWA has applied for in rural Nevada (which SNWA denies). The report says that while strides have been made in reducing the outdoor water waste in Las Vegas there is much that can still be done, and that indoor conservation has largely ignored.

The second report -- by researchers with Boulder, Colo.-based Western Resource Advocates -- compared conservation efforts in three desert cities: Tucson, Ariz., Albuquerque, N.M., and Las Vegas. Las Vegas falls well behind Tucson, which has an admirable per capita water consumption rate of 110 gallons per day. They achieve this by a realistic water rate structure that makes it very expensive to waste water. Water rates in the Las Vegas Valley are not structured to realistically foster conservation. Recent public opinion polls in southern Nevada indicate residents are much more worried about electricity bills than about water bills. Unlike Utah hotels and motels, those in Las Vegas typically do not offer visitors a choice of reusing sheets and towels between laundering. To do otherwise would diminish the carefully nourished perception of Fantasy Land.

The first report can be found at

The second report is at

The Las Vegas Sun reported the release in Report says southern Nevada water pipeline plan flawed

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


( beware typos; cannot verify accuracy; please conserve. )
( * see note at bottom about )

  • The only water we will ever have is what we have now.

  • Showers use 9 gallons of water per minute.

  • A bath requires 30 to 50 gallons.

  • When ground water is contaminated it may remain that way for several thousand years.

  • It takes 120 gallons of water to produce an egg.

  • A hot water faucet that leaks 60 drops per minute can waste 192 gallons of water and 48 kwhrs of electricity per month.

  • Human blood is 83% water. Human bones are 25% water.

  • Running the tap waiting for water to get hot or cold can waste 5 gallons per minute.

  • Saltwater is 97% of water on earth. Three percent is freshwater. Most of the freshwater stored on the earth is frozen in glaciers.

  • Each day the sun evaporates 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) tons of water.

  • The earth's surface is about 80% water. That is about 320,000,000,000,000 (363 trillion) gallons of water.

  • Watermelons is 93% water.

  • "Water" was the first word that Helen Keller learned. "Water was the last word spoken by President Ulysses S. Grant.

  • In some deserts, rain is so uncommon that the natives to not have a word for it.

  • Over 42,000 gallons of water are needed to grow and prepare the food for a typical Thanksgiving dinner for eight in the United States. This is enough to fill a 30 by 50 foot swimming pool.

  • People in the United States use as much as 700,000,00,000 (700 billion) gallons of water each day.

  • Heating water is the second largest energy user in the home.

  • In some countries law requires solar heating of water for domestic uses.

  • The koala bear and the desert rat do not drink water.

  • In one glass of water, there are about 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (8 septillion water molecules.

  • In a one hundred year period, a water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about 2 weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere.

  • Poor quality drinking water kills the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets filled with children every day.

  • A corn plant needs 54 gallons per season.

  • A milk cow needs 15 gallons per day or 5,475 gallons per year.

  • A horse needs 10 gallons per day or 3,650 gallons per year.

  • A hog needs 4 gallons per day or 1,500 gallons per year.

  • An acre of sugar beets consumptively uses 651,702 gallons or 2 acre feet per season

  • An acre of alfalfa needs 488,776 gallons per season in Colorado and 684,240 gallons in New Mexico.

  • One bail of has requires 17,000 gallons.

  • One truckload of 450 bails of has requires 7,650,000 gallons or 23.47 acre feet.


  • A Cubic Foot per Second or a Second Foot is also called a CFS. It equals 448.8 U.S. gallons per minute.

  • One-Acre Ft. is the amount of water necessary to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot deep. It is equal to 325,851.45 U.S. gallons.

  • An irrigation is about six inches of water per acre unless the soils are saline when extra water is needed. An irrigation will usually penetrate 4-6" deep. If soils are saline additional water is needed to flush salts from the root zone.

  • A Miners-Inch varies between 11.69 gpm in Colorado and 8.98 to 11.22 gpm in other western states of the United States.

  • One U.S. gallon is 0.8327 Imperial gallons

  • One cubic foot is 7.48062 U.S. gallons

  • One cubic meter is 264.2 U.S. gallons

  • One acre foot is 1,233.26 cubic meters

* WaterBank® and its personnel wear many hats in addition to brokering and dealing in water-related assets. In addition to the services that WaterBank® offers, we are also a licensed real estate firm in New Mexico. WaterBank® and its staff carry out a significant amount of investigative reporting that is uniquely reported on this Web Site. Because of the highly political character of water and potentially dangerous agendas of the actors, we consider ourselves as journalists and as such the sources of much of our material is strictly confidential and must remain confidential.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Candidate pledges support in Callao

US Senate candidate Pete Ashdown, in a town hall meeting in Callao tonight (10-23-06) told a small audience that he shares our belief there is no surplus water available for thirsty Las Vegas. He also disagreed with UNLV professor Hal Rothman and others who say that desert farmers and ranchers are an anachronism.



In Chemicals cause changes in fish and raise concerns for humans by Las Vegas Sun reporter Launce Rake starts out, "There's something wrong with the fish."

There also seems to be something wrong with the science.

The story deals with a USGS report about deformed fish in Lake Mead and elsewhere in the US. These deformities are linked to wastewater chemicals. The deformities are being caused by traces of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chemicals. In the case of Lake Mead, the source seems to be treated wastewater in the Las Vegas Wash, which drains Las Vegas Valley.

Controversy surrounds both the science and the scope of the problem. One researcher, Tim Gross, thinks the problem is worse than official reports suggest. He says he was ordered not to release his findings; USGS fired him, claiming he failed to release his findings. Gross claims the new report is still withholding important data. USGS officials still maintain data has not been suppressed.

Gross claims SNWA, USGS, and the Dept. of Interior do not want to hear his gloomy message. Gross worries the chemicals in Lake Mead could affect humans, since the lake supplies water to Las Vegas Valley and communities downstream in California and Mexico. The USGS says implications for human health are outside their sphere. SNWA claims water being drawn from Lake Mead to Las Vegas is adequately treated to avoid any threats to humans.

This news story may have implications for the water grab.

Plans are in the works to build a $750 million pipeline to put the effluent from Las Vegas Valley deeper into Lake Mead in order to provide a greater separation from where the effluent goes in and where drinking water comes out. Dr. Jim Deacon, professor emeritus in environmental studies at UNVL, has speculated that this $3/4 billion could be better spent by upgrading SNWA treatment plants with membrane technology similar to recent advancements in desalination. This strategy would virtually eliminate the toxic effluent polluting Lake Mead.

SNWA, however, is in love with return flow credits -- treated wastewater that goes back into Lake Mead. This is the treated effluent that is carrying the chemicals causing the deformities in fish. SNWA gets a gallon of Lake Mead water for every gallon of treated wastewater SNWA puts into the lake. This almost doubles their 300,000 acre-feet allotment from the Colorado River. But treating the wastewater with membrane technology would still render that water reusable. In fact, membrane technology could free up other unusable water such as brackish groundwater, runoff, and flood waters. Using this technology could make it possible to make available as much or more water than SNWA is seeking in their rural groundwater scheme.

This is another example of SNWA's blinders approach. They see the pristine water of rural Nevada and Utah and their creativity stops there. Let's hope the BLM will be more open to other ideas when they look for alternatives in their ongoing Environmental Impact Study.

Another implication for the water grab may be federal agencies running interference for SNWA. We've already seen four agencies sign an what many see as an inadequate stipulation agreement and withdraw protests on SNWA Spring Valley water rights applications. We still have several processes to complete in the water grab, involving federal agencies. These processes require copious amounts of close scrutiny.

Water-induced economic collapse?

Water-induced economic collapse of CA? by Mark Bird, featured in the online version of the Water Conditioning and Purification, describes a horrible scenario of economic doom for California, precipitated by water shortages. Mark Bird is a professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada and has been active in opposing the Las Vegas water exportation scheme. Just as there are many spooky parallels between the Los Angeles water grab in Owens Valley and the Las Vegas scheme, there also may be similar parallels between the scenario Bird outlines and the out-of-control growth of Las Vegas and the extreme need to find more water to feed it. Water scarcity is becoming one of the major problems of the US Southwest.

Bird's conclusions:

California has been using over 100 percent of its Colorado River allocation, but other Colorado River states may soon be using their full allotment, resulting in a cut back to California. California also has been using over 100 percent of its annual renewable groundwater. Global warming and litigation will thwart any solution. The paper outlines several hydrological and sociological factors and the conclusion warns of a statewide collapse if even half of the factors are erroneous. Some of the factors have been known for more than a decade without solutions being implemented. Even modest solutions would not guarantee averting a collapse.

As early as 2008 California could start experiencing:

  • Declining water levels triggering 10-50 percent increases in all urban water bills.
  • A year or two later, water bills increasing by 50-100 %.
  • A year or two later, still declining water levels increasing power bills and hydroelectric shortages by 50%.
  • Prices for southern California food increasing by 50 %.
  • Frequent $500 fines for home water waste.
  • Cities charging a $10,000 fee for new home water connections.
  • Declining water quality causing a variety of health problems.
  • Thousands of water-intensive businesses closing.
  • Unemployment, crime and civil unrest increasing.
  • Hundreds of thousands fleeing California.
Bird acknowledges a fair degree of uncertainty. He also states human nonintervention may accelerate the collapse--or prudent human intervention may still prevent it.

Mark gives his blessing on putting this information here and adds:

For both Nevada and Utah, water scarcity could get worse for both states but there also are several solutions that could benefit both Nevada and Utah.

For Utah, a further decline of Lake Powell has clear signs of less water, less power, and less recreation. But Utah benefits by the farm, desalting, and five percent reduction of river water to all river states.

Mark Bird, a professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada, is an author of over 30 water-related articles including "$000 Cost Desalination" in WC&P, April 2005. In 1993, he wrote an article on the collapse of another state entitled "How Global Warming Will Impact Louisiana." Bird can be reached at email:

Friday, October 20, 2006

Water stories

Two recent news stories provide insight into the Colorado River and water conservation.

Storms raise Lake Powell level by five feet; Autumn rain raises level by five feet, from the Grand Junction Sentinel, reports the Lake Powell water levels have risen five feet this fall.

Water conservation a way of life; Drought-stricken areas of West adopt strict standards, in the Monterey Herald, tells how people all over the West have changed their water-wasting ways. From artificial turf over Roy Rogers' grave to brushing teeth without water running in the tap, water is being saved everywhere.

SNWA's program paying people to tear out lawns is mentioned, including notice that SNWA has put the kibosh on decorative water fountains, but only on the more insignificant ones. SNWA's conservation manager said, ''Any visual use of water like that can undermine people's perception of water conservation. It gives you the impression that water's not valued in your community.'

However, larger water features such as the Mirage volcano and the Bellagio fountains are still on, but only because they use low-quality groundwater or recycled water.

All those big fountains spraying water high into the 100 degree air has got to result in a lot of evaporation, unless they are using magic water (and who knows, in Fantasy Land they know how to spread around the Fantasy Dust). You can't see evaporation like you can lawn grass. Those debauched displays certainly undermine any perception of conservation and give a larger-than-life impression that water conservation is not valued. The more water Las Vegas wastes, the more likely it is that Snake Valley will be full of real dust soon.

UNLV history professor Hal Rothman likes to put things into simple equations. Although not quoted in this story, he has said that farming does not make sense because it consumes 80% of available water while only contributing 1% of southern Nevada income. Maybe he would argue that water wasted to titillate tourists has more value than rural spring water keeping sensitive species alive. After all, how much money do least chub contribute to the economy?

Water conservation in the West cannot be mentioned too often. It is the best, cheapest solution for all of us.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Candidate to visit Callao

Senate candidate Pete Ashdown will be in Callao Monday 10-23-06 at 5 PM
for a town hall meeting. See below for details from a press release.
In several other venues Mr. Ashdown has supported Snake Valley residents
in our struggle against the Las Vegas water exportation scheme. (See "WHY" below.)

Anyway, if you want to ask Mr. Ashdown anything about the water issue
(or anything else), everyone is welcome to attend. If you have any questions, submit a comment to this post (at the end of this post).

NOTE: Neither the North Snake Valley Water Association, Snake Valley Citizens Alliance, nor the Great Basin Water Network endorses any candidate but welcomes candidate support in our struggle to protect Snake Valley from the water exportation scheme.

-- from press release --

WHEN and WHERE: A town hall meeting will be held beginning at 5 PM,
Monday, October 23, 2006, at the Callao School, Pony Express Rt. 230,

WHO: Cecil Garland, the Callao rancher who successfully fought the MX
missile base in the 1980s, and his wife Annette are hosting a town hall
meeting to let residents know about Pete Ashdown and how he will fight
for them in the US Senate.

WHY: Ashdown believes that rural issues are being ignored in this
campaign, and the biggest rural issue currently is how to stop Nevada
from draining the Snake Valley's water. Ashdown is siding with, to
paraphrase Garland, a place that is personified by cattle, children,
church and country over a metropolis that is personified by glitter,
gluttony, gambling and girls. He has made the choice: crops over
craps. "I believe that any serious discussion about food safety has to
involve buying locally," Ashdown said. "But if farmers and ranchers
don't have the water to grow and raise locally, consumers aren't given
the option to buy local."

gross domestic product

The Las Vegas water exportation proposal has again reached a national audience, this time in USA Today (Vegas reaching for rural water).

Pretty fair coverage. A restrained Hal Rothman again speaks about the need to get pesky farmers out of the picture. In response to a suggestion that water rates should be raised as a means of conservation, Pat Mulroy says, "That penalizes people who can't afford it." It is a never-ending cycle : build more casinos, attract more tourists, hire more workers, build more homes, use more water - but let's not disturb the Fantasy Land image that anyone should actually pay to support their habits (except for the "suckers" - opps, I mean "tourists"). Las Vegas is still WAY behind cities like Tucson in per capita water consumption.

As long as there are basins in which to dangerously lower water tables why worry? Just keep wasting.

Mulroy says our concerns are unfounded, that Nevada law will protect us. "It's emotion. It's regionalism. It's rural vs. urban. It's fear-based. Protecting that environment will always be of tantamount importance to us."

But SNWA only wants to protect the environment enough to make their exportation scheme sustainable. Sustainability for the affected basins is different than sustainability of their scheme. One exhibit SNWA offered to the Nevada State Engineer, in the recent Spring Valley water rights hearing, indicated water tables would have to be drawn down 45 feet in order to eliminate greasewood, whose roots reach down to the water table. That's the goal: capturing evapotranspiration being "wasted" by vegetation. That much drawdown would have devastating effects on springs and the wildlife habitat they provide.

In the NV SE hearings, SNWA claimed they can relocate sensitive species and even irrigate thousands of acres in order to preserve the rural environment. They seem to think they can create a mini Jurassic Park -- exporting Fantasy Land into rural Nevada and Utah. Why not, if you can recreate New York, Paris, Venice, Camelot, and ancient Egypt in the middle of the desert? Somehow they can control massive basins in rural Nevada and Utah but they can't control their own water rates.

The story quotes Jeff Mount, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis : "When you look at it on a bigger, multigenerational scale, we're basically mining these groundwater basins at rates that can't be sustained. When the water's gone, it's gone."

UNLV history professor Hal Rothman puts it all in a simple equation : "Farms and ranches consume 80% of Western water supplies yet generate less than 1% of states' gross domestic product." Yes, Las Vegas produces the bulk of Nevada's income, its "gross domestic product." Gambling. Fantasy. That certainly is worth whatever dire costs rural Nevadans and Utahns might have to pay, isn't it?

The story mentions SNWA's computer groundwater model about which SNWA witnesses testified at length in the NV SE Spring Valley hearings. Their point was the model is wonderful but there isn't enough data to run it -- so please let us pump water and then use the model in our management plan and please pay no attention to hydrologist Tom Myers' model which talks about drawdowns of 200 feet over 75 years. The story correctly points out that the National Park Service, running SNWA's model, got results similar to Myers. Because of a stipulation agreement between SNWA and four federal agencies in the Department of Interior, the NPS model run was not accepted into evidence in the NV SE hearings. (BLM staffers have promised that groundwater models will be part of the Environmental Impact Study soon to be restarted.)

Mulroy, who constantly harps about rural emotionalism, says "Time is short." Anything like 2002, when the Colorado River ran about a quarter of normal, "would invoke a crisis," Mulroy says. In other news stories she has defined the "crisis" -- a slowdown in the out-of-control growth of casino building and tourism to Fantasy Land. I wonder if she has a sign on her desk : "Our lack of planning IS your emergency."

Vegas reaching for rural water

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

EIS scoping period over

As mentioned in Please help!, three processes are ongoing and open to your input:

  1. BLM Environmental Impact Study

  2. Nevada State Engineer public comments

  3. UT-NV agreement
See Please help! for details and contact information.

BLM Environmental Impact Study
We have just past a milestone in one of these processes, the BLM Environmental Impact Study. The deadline for scoping comments ended yesterday (10-17-06). We'll keep you posted on any EIS activity we hear about.

The technical teams -- hydrology, biology, and socio-economic -- will begin meeting as soon as arrangements can be made, possibly before the end of this year. These teams evaluate SNWA's proposal against available data. We've been reassured by BLM staffers that a groundwater model will be run as part of the hydrology team's work. SNWA claims there is not enough data available to run a predictive model but they seem to think there is enough data to know its OK to pump and export water.

Nevada State Engineer
You still have time to make comments to the Nevada State Engineer who must decide whether to grant water rights for Spring Valley, just west of Snake Valley. (See Please help! for details and contact information.) We'll keep you posted on this process, too, especially when the Spring Valley decision is made and when Snake Valley water rights hearings are scheduled.

Thanks to all who are interested in this issue and for all you have done to support Snake Valley.

Pipeline direction

A recent Salt Lake Tribune op ed (Letting Vegas quench its thirst with our water sells out our children's birthright -- 10-14-06) advocates Utah should rebuff southern Nevada's proposed pipeline project to export water from Snake Valley because "its desiccation in favor of more Las Vegas would be tragic." Well stated. And for most of the piece, the author gets it right.

Near the end, however, is this: "The Wasatch Front is twice as close to the aquifer as Las Vegas." From Snake Valley residents' point of view it does not matter where water is exported to. Desiccation is desiccation. The water table already is dropping and springs already are drying up -- because of the drought and local irrigation. That does not indicate surplus water for anyone. Snake Valley is a fragile environment. It does not matter where water is exported to, Snake Valley would suffer.

This idea has been floated before, only the suggested recipient was Nephi. Given the population growth in Utah, several municipalities are, or soon will be, looking for additional water. Utah's future municipal water needs likely would not be anything like that of thirsty Las Vegas. But cities have a tendancy to outgrow their resources. Their appetites increase at least as fast as their population. Once a city becomes dependent on an imported water source, it is almost impossible to shut off that source, even if impacts develop in the source basin.

The best water strategy for both Las Vegas and the Wasatch Front is conservation. Conservation is the cheapest source of water as well as the most environment friendly. It also is a lot more friendly to Utah neighbors in the parched West Desert.

Two reports set for release

The reports below likely will shed light on the overall context of the Las Vegas water exportation proposal.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) report, "Where does it start? Where will it end? Las Vegas and the Groundwater Development Project," will focus on the SNWA pipeline proposal -- including comparisons between Las Vegas water consumption and the need for greater conservation.

The Western Resource Advocates report, "Water in the Urban Southwest: An Updated Water Use Analysis of Albuquerque, Las Vegas Valley and Tucson" compares water use and water management and conservation (including recommendations).

While these reports may not relate directly to Utahns, they help put this proposal in context of water in the West. Conservation should be our motto in this struggle. A recent op ed in the Salt Lake Tribune implied that Utah cannot allow Snake Valley water to go to Las Vegas because a pipeline from Snake Valley to the Wasatch Front might be a future option. It is vital to understand (1) Snake Valley has no surplus water regardless of which direction people would like to point a pipeline and (2) water conservation is the cheapest, most environmentally sound option throughout the West.

original press release

October 17, 2006 October 17, 2006
Press Advisory

Bob Fulkerson - Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
775-348-7557 (office)
775-843-2218 (cell)

Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi - Western Resource Advocates
303-444-1188 x247 (office)
303-859-2958 (cell)

Providing water for growing Southwestern urban populations is fast becoming one of the central dilemmas facing city officials. Western Resource Advocates and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada are each releasing a report looking at this issue from different perspectives.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
11 am to 12 noon

WHERE: Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History, UNLV Campus (Reserved parking for event is just west of Lied Library. Enter west side of campus on Harmon off of Paradise.) Address: 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV

WHAT: The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) is releasing Where does it start? Where will it end? Las Vegas and the Groundwater Development Project, which provides an overview of the potential plans, costs and impacts of the Southern Nevada Water Authority's proposal to extract groundwater from rural Nevada and Utah and pipe it to Las Vegas. The report also highlights the conservation approaches in Albuquerque and Tucson and how the experiences in these cities can be an inspiration for Las Vegans. "We found that based on the conservation gains in Tucson and Albuquerque there's a lot more that Las Vegans could do to reduce their water use so that the pipeline project may be unnecessary. The pipeline system is going to be extremely expensive--there are no accurate figures but it's in the billions of dollars--while conservation is comparatively inexpensive," says PLAN report author Christina Roessler.

Western Resource Advocates is releasing their report, Water in the Urban Southwest: An Updated Water Use Analysis of Albuquerque, Las Vegas Valley and Tucson. The report provides a current snapshot of water use in the three cities and examines their varied approaches to conservation and water management programs. The report also provides recommendations on how the cities can further improve their conservation programs. "All three communities have programs in place that are reducing per-capita use, yet all three communities also have room for improvement" stated Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, a Water Policy Analyst with Western Resource Advocates and the report's primary author.

WHO: Report authors Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi and Christina Roessler will be joined by

  • Dean Baker, Nevada rancher,
  • Al Nichols, water engineer and consultant on water conservation for Tucson, AZ, and
  • Greg James, legal counsel and former Water Department Director for Owens Valley, CA.

Reports will be posted October, 24th on the web at

And check here for links and commentary.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Utah Farm Bureau -- powerful allies

The Utah Farm Bureau has been very active in urging restraint in the decisions whether to allow SNWA's proposed water exportation scheme.

A delegation from UFB recently spent several days in Washington DC where they met with members of Utah's Congressional delegation and with officials from federal agencies such as Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The SNWA pipeline proposal was on the agenda of most meetings.

Randy Parker, CEO, also attended the meeting of the Interim Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment where the pipeline proposal was discussed and resolution in support of waiting for the best possible science was passed unanimously (click here).

You can find an article (PDF) about the pipeline project in the UFB News.

Thanks, UFB for your strong support and interest, as per usual, in Utah agriculture issues.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

National Park group -- background paper

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has posted a background paper: More Science Needed for Great Basin Ground-water Pumping Project This is an organization of retired Park Service employees who care deeply for the natural resources of America. The quality of this document attests to their professionalism as well. In addition to this background paper you can find several associated letters we all could use as starting points for letters of our own (Letters page) This document is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the SNWA proposal, especially as it relates to Great Basin National Park. Below are some excerpts from the paper.

Their conclusion:

Enough science has been developed to know that there will likely be adverse effects from the proposed ground-water pumping project, including effects on GBNP. Using different modeling efforts, the Myers, NPS, and USFWS estimate proposed pumping effects of a similar order of magnitude in Spring Valley. However, these and other available studies are incomplete in various respects. The Myers model covers only Spring Valley. The SNWA model, while larger, excludes the Goshute Indian Reservation and USFWS Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, which need to be evaluated. The SNWA model also uses a conceptualization of ground-water hydrology about which scientists disagree. A predictive model is needed that is developed by a science agency like the USGS, with no land management, preservation, or development agenda and with rigorous peer review. It will produce objective, scientific predictive estimates of future effects from the proposed pumping. Therefore, the CNPSR urges the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct or approve additional science sufficient to predict accurately the effects of proposed pumping on GBNP. This could be the proposed “BARCASS II” or a combination of peer review, testing of available models, and any additional research required, as determined by USGS. Until these predictive estimates are available, SNWA should not begin its large-scale ground-water pumping from Spring Valley. This is the only certain way to protect the resources of Great Basin National Park.

On the Spring Valley stipulation agreement:
“Stipulation for Withdrawal of Protests”.) The agreement’s common goal is to avoid any effects to resources within Great Basin NP and unreasonable adverse effects to other federal resources and to the scenic values of, and the visibility from, GBNP. The goals of the agreement and the actions it specifies are critically important. However, the agencies agreed to monitor effects, rather than prevent them. Instead of waiting for sufficient information to predict effects, the parties agreed to collect baseline data, then continue to collect data and refine existing models while pumping is in progress, and evaluate effects as they occur. The agreement includes no protocol specifying target water level measurements to trigger specific mitigation actions. The agreement’s 3 committees, each of which includes representatives of the 4 Interior agencies plus the SNWA, are expected to recommend decisions about monitoring and mitigation by consensus. Consensus decision-making can be both time-consuming and ineffective when vested interests are in conflict. If they cannot reach consensus, they can turn to an unnamed third party or the Nevada State Engineer. There is no language in the agreement regarding compliance enforcement, should decisions not be implemented. Even if decisions are reached and pumping is reduced or ceases, adverse effects will continue at least for decades. Hence, the agreement is neither detailed enough nor strong enough to allow the parties to meet their laudable goals. As a consequence of the agreement, the State Water Engineer did not hear testimony from the DOI agencies

USGS Report of Likely Effects on Great Basin NP:
A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 2006 report (“Characterization of Surface-Water Resources in the Great Basin National Park Area…” by Elliott, Beck, and Prudic: SIR 2006-5099) states that Park surface-water resources will likely be susceptible to proposed ground-water withdrawals from Snake Valley. However, pumping in Spring Valley could affect ground-water levels in Snake Valley, because the two areas likely are hydrologically connected south of the Park. The report did not further evaluate this potential, nor effects on wildlife that move in and out of Spring Valley from and to the Park.

A joint USGS and Desert Research Institute “Basin and Range Carbonate Aquifer System Study”(“BARCASS I”) funded expressly to evaluate effects of the SNWA project, will conclude by December of 2007. This study will integrate geologic, hydrologic, and geochemical information to improve upon known data, but because of time and budget, will not be able to predict effects of pumping. It will provide the necessary information for future development of a calibrated ground-water flow model to assess potential impacts of the pumping project (“BARCASS II”). However, no funds are available for BARCASS II.

SNWA ground-water flow model:
Mr. Timothy Durbin of SNWA developed a calibrated ground-water flow model for SNWA. The model can be used to develop predictions. However, SNWA has chosen not to present these predictions to the public.

National Park Service (NPS) predictive estimates:
Dr. Paula Cutillo of the NPS made predictive estimates using the Durbin SNWA model that showed that there would be a “drawdown of up to 200 ft in the area of the pumping wells after 75 years of pumping”. (Exhibit #2504)

Mr. Tod Williams, Resource Manager for GBNP, identified 5 springs in the Park that are within ¼ mile of the USGS report’s (Elliot et al) “susceptibility area” for Spring Valley. (USNPS Exhibit #2501)

Tribal snub update

A few days ago we posted a press release from the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation voicing their displeasure and concerns that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had not consulted them about a Spring Valley stipulation agreement the agency signed with SNWA, withdrawing protests to SNWA water rights applications.

The snub was reported in the Las Vegas Sun (10-03-06) who followed up with an editorial (10-04-06).

A BIA official said SNWA's Spring Valley water rights applications didn't seem to them to affect Indian lands so "the federal government should go along with what looked to be inevitable."

BIA mailed an apology saying they were unable to consult with tribes prior to the agreement because of scheduling problems dealing with the Nevada State Engineer hearing and the SNWA-fed negotiations. Ed Naranjo, Goshute Tribe official, said the agency had plenty of time to consult, which was their legal responsibility. BIA said they had not been asked by local tribes to be part of the stipulation agreement, saying "The impact to the tribes doesn't look like it will be more than minimal."

BIA pledged to work with local tribes in the ongoing Bureau of Land Management Environmental Impact Study.

The Goshute Reservation's business council will meet to discuss a response to the SNWA-fed agreement.

Naranjo said the issue should have been avoided with a phone call.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Governor gets rave reviews

Our governor is doing us proud in the way he is standing up for Snake Valley. His stated position has never wavered.

As an opponent of SNWA's water exportation scheme I am in contact with other opponents in several states. The KUED documentary, Desert Wars - Water in the West, sparked a flurry of e-mail messages. Governor Huntsman got rave reviews for his statements. Obviously, Utahns also have given the governor high marks. Here are some of the comments I've received from non-Utahns:

  • I'm impressed with your governor.
  • I wish our governor was more like yours.
  • WOW!
In the recent KUED documentary we saw him again make clear, strong statements. In a KUER interview prior to the documentary's premiere, producer John Howe said Governor Huntsman was the only major politician to consent to being interviewed. (White Pine County, NV, Commissioner Gary Perea was interviewed.) Another guest on the broadcast, historian William Kahrl, gave the governor a rave review and said that the only way to solve water issues in the West is for elected officials to speak openly in addressing them.

Howe asked the governor many more questions than we saw in the documentary. See extended interview for more of Governor Huntsman's interview. Following are a few excerpts.

I stand up strongly for the interests of our ranchers-those who want to protect their way of life and have done so for a hundred years in the western part of our state. The resources are ours ...

I think [the BLM EIS] will result in our all discovering that this big straw concept would in fact draw resources right out of the backyards of people who are trying to make a life for themselves in the western part of Utah.

They [Snake Valley residents] have to know that their state, right up to the very top ... will stand with them and fight for their interests. In fact we as a state have veto authority over any decision that is made.

I'm going to make sure that the interests of our people in the Snake Valley region are protected and that their life-styles are protected before we make any decision that would funnel water into Clark County.

I think if we determine that there is not surplus water to be had then I think that Nevada has to look at some other alternative and they have to go farther in their own states or they have to look at desalinization technology.

we certainly ought to be focused on technologies that will allow us to accommodate that growth and not rip off natural resources that aren't ours.

We need to work on technologies that will allow us to desalinize and maybe draw from some other resource where you find water aplenty...

I suspect fifty years from now we're going to look back on this water war and say, that really was a thing of history because now we have the kind of technology that allows us to accommodate growth in the West.

the protection would be Utah simply saying no! To me that is the ultimate protection that our State has.

we protect their way of life by keeping their water shed or water resources in tact.

They've been working it for generations and they know where the resources are and they know what is theirs and they know how to use it. They know the difficulty in tapping it-good years versus bad years, and I tend to defer to the good judgment of the people of the Snake Valley region to guide my thinking anyway.

I think John Weseley Powell basically called it right after the Civil War when he came traipsing through here in

There has to be a conservation ethic that is instilled in our younger generation so that the idea of consuming three to four hundred gallons per day per person is throttled back to a more "user friendly" level. ... The idea that you can have a massive water fountain in front of every grand hotel in Las Vegas probably has to be re-thought just a little bit with a sense that going forward without technologies for desalinization or some other way, we've got to maintain and even strengthen a conservation ethic.

[about a connection between the southern Utah pipeline project and Snake Valley]: I don't think so unless politicians on a regional basis want to play power politics. ... I see them very much as stand-alone projects.

I don't think there will be any movement at all over the next few years. I think they will be used in support of a study and I think that the study will probably lead to another study and maybe yet another study and that's sometimes the way government decision-making works. Sometimes studies are the decisions. Nobody can quite agree on what to do so another study is launched and it wouldn't surprise me if we found ourselves caught up in endless studies in the next few years and I hope by that point we get serious about some technology that would allow us to better feed, from a water resources standpoint, our burgeoning communities.

SNWA's ultimate goal - Utah strategic backfire?

Southern Nevada depends on the Colorado River for 90% of its water needs. When the Colorado River was divided between the seven river-bordering states and Mexico in the early 1920's, Nevada wound up with a very small share. At the time it seemed as though Nevada never would come close to using its share. Las Vegas was a small railroad town.

Then Hoover Dam was built and prostitution legalized in the 1930's. Construction workers from the dam site made regular runs to Las Vegas for gambling, girls, and guzzling booze. After World War 2, the Strip was developed, with a lot of mob money and muscle. Beginning in the 1980's the population of southern Nevada began to soar and the land developers and casino owners have kept the out-of-control growth stoked to the explosion point.

Now SNWA managers are predicting their Colorado River share will be inadequate by 2013-2016.

A few years ago, SNWA began making threatening noises about challenging the Colorado River Compact in court, in an attempt to get more Colorado River water. Although the Compact is based on a bogus river volume, it sort of works and no one really wants to see what would happen if it was reopened. So Nevada's sister states in the Compact, led by Utah, directed Nevada to look for instate resources in exchange for promises to lay off the Compact and for ways to enhance Nevada's share of the river.

That is why, in 1989, SNWA applied for water rights in Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine Counties.

These applications were put on hold because of public outcry at the time. In 1994 Pat Mulroy called the scheme silly, implying it was a dramatic way to draw attention to southern Nevada's plight.

Then the drought. Lake Mead, where SNWA draws its share of the river, began receding. It is now at a dangerously low level. So, SNWA resurrected its plans to pump water from rural Nevada and pipe it to southern Nevada -- accompanied by another public outcry.

An August 20, 2006, Las Vegas Sun editorial said:

The multibillion-dollar ground water proposal, which has been in the planning stages since 1990, calls for pumping 91,000 acre-feet from the Spring Valley region of Lincoln County and 25,000 acre-feet from the Snake Valley region of White Pine County. (An acre-foot is roughly enough water to supply a family of five for a year.)

Mulroy believes this amount of extra water would ensure Las Vegas' growth to the middle of this century. By that time, we hope, the federal law governing how Colorado River water is shared among seven states will have been changed to allow Nevada a greater portion.

What is Nevada's and SNWA's goal? To get instate water, thus avoiding having to attack the Colorado Compact? Or to get instate water, to better consolidate their position when they make their inevitable attack the Colorado Compact?

Now Utah is in negotiations with Nevada to determine how much Snake Valley water is unused and available to be sucked out of the aquifer shared by the two states. It will be a shame if we give up a lot of groundwater in the West Desert in an attempt to stave off an assault on the Compact only to find that the Compact is still under siege and our water rights and resources are gone, too.

For more information about the stress on the Colorado River Compact, see Las Vegas wrestling over Rocky Mountain water by Matt Jenkins of High Country News


Who are we opposing?

We in Snake Valley, and Utah in general, are opposed to the water exportation scheme proposed by SNWA. We do not think the science is adequate to make decisions that could cause permanent damage to the environment of rural Utah and Nevada. Once the water starts flowing south it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to stop the flow -- regardless of impacts.

We are in conflict with the deep-pocketed and powerful gaming and land development industries.

We are not in conflict with common citizens of Las Vegas and southern Nevada. Public opinion polls in Las Vegas indicate people there are fed up with the side effects of out-of-control growth feeding the need for more and more resources and resulting in congestion, pollution, crime, illegal immigration, overcrowded schools. We have heard from many Las Vegans who do not want to pursue water from rural Nevada and Utah. A common theme is, enough is enough.

The gaming industry (an oxymoron?) wants more "suckers" to stream through their doors. A recent news story in Las Vegas reported one casino is making a sub-par 20% return on investment (ROI) and wondered how long they could possibly stay in business at that paltry rate. Most casinos rake in much more. The odds are with the house, as they say in Vegas, and what goes to Vegas truly stays there (in the vaults). The more people they can run through the system the higher the ROI. But more customers equates to more casinos which equates to more casino workers which equates to more houses, more congestion, more pollution, more crime, and more water usage.

The average Las Vegan thinks differently than the Vegas elite. In a recent documentary on Discovery Channel, a casino executive said (overlaying a bumper-to-bumper shot of the Strip) "We love congestion. It means people are here and on the move, looking for fun and excitement." Ask the average Las Vegan about congestion and you will be faced with a very frustrated person.

Dire warnings are trotted out every time something looks like it could stand in the way of bringing in more gamblers. Pat Mulroy, SNWA chief, said recently if their water rights are not approved Nevada might as well shut its doors now -- the party will be over. They won't have to wait until 2013, when Nevada's share of the Colorado River may be exhausted. Once word is out that growth might stall, New York bankers will start pulling the plug on Las Vegas. Or so the party line goes. Similar frightening predictions, of fabricated drought, were made prior to Los Angeles' draining of Owens Valley.

Governor Huntsman is to be commended as a man of integrity who speaks his mind plainly and clearly. In KUED's recent documentary, "Desert Wars - Water in the West," he answered a question commonly asked in conflicts like this: should the few sacrifice for the many? (Similar arguments were made prior to Los Angeles' draining of Owens Valley.) He said,

"I think that's a disingenuous argument. We have a way of life that ought to be protected. People have invested their livelihoods in their way of life for generations and I wouldn't want to be the arrogant one who comes along saying that their lifestyle is now anachronistic and we've got to feed the burgeoning casino and hotel business just south of them... for heaven's sake if that's where our country is going in terms of public policy, then you can expect and outbreak of civil war at some point."

Boy does he have them pegged: the arrogant ones. Let's fleece as many suckers as possible. Only let's call it something else; let's call it entertainment; let's call it Nevada's economic engine. Who cares if the majority of people on either end of the proposed pipeline don't want it. Who cares there is a minimum of science to say it is safe, let's risk permanent environmental damage; let's call that "adaptive management."

We are not in conflict with our neighboring citizens. We are in conflict with the well-heeled and greedy, who care only about their own interests.

Read all the governor's interview.

Send the governor a thank you for standing with us.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Owens Valley - foot dragging legacy

A news story in the Los Angeles Times -- L.A. Told to Restore Owens River (9-28-2006) -- reported a decision by a California Court of Appeal upholding a lower court order banning Los Angeles from using one of its aqueducts if the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) does not proceed to restore 62 miles of the Lower Owens River.

LADWP has been ignoring earlier court rulings and deadlines for decades, taking advantage of the economic fact that it was cheaper to pay fines than to restrict the interbasin flow of water. The court of appeals decision turned on a technicality -- LADWP lawyers did not assert their right to appeal in a timely manner. If they had, they may not even have had these restrictions imposed.

People have criticized opponents of the Las Vegas water exportation scheme when we bring up Owens Valley. "That can never happen," they say, "because laws are much stronger now." That may be true, although the Spring Valley (the basin west of Snake Valley) stipulation agreement recently signed by SNWA and the US Department of Interior (DOI) does not contain any triggers to initiate mitigation plans if impacts are discovered. The agreement allows for monitoring (although SNWA has a virtual veto over monitor well locations) but only specifies talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk if impacts are raised by any of the parties.

One aspect of the Owens Valley saga remains a real possibility -- foot dragging.

If SNWA begins pumping in Spring Valley it could take years to see impacts, potentially permanent, develop. Once those impacts are raised, a monitoring committee composed of SNWA and DOI staffers talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk about what needs to be done. Their conclusions then go to an Executive Committee which will talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. They may do something about the impacts or they may not. SNWA may not admit their pumping is responsible for the impacts. This could lead to years of study which could still result in SNWA doing nothing.

Even if court decisions go against SNWA, they have the example of their public utility cousin LADWP to guide them. SNWA could decide that paying off a $2-$12 billion pipeline is a higher priority than slowing or stopping the flow. Fines would be nothing more than a speed bump for this well-healed utility.

Given all the power of Las Vegas gaming corporations and land developers -- who seem to hold the state of Nevada hostage with their claims of economic apocalypse if out-of-control growth founders -- SNWA has a lot of juice (a Las Vegas term meaning clout).

Environmental laws may be more stringent now but juice is still juice.

L.A. Times story

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Please Help!

See White Pine County bill -- just add water for some tips on contacting the UT Congressional delegation about BARCASS 2 water study.

==== older information ====
Three processes are currently under way in which you can have input.

  1. BLM Environmental Impact Study

  2. Nevada State Engineer public comments

  3. UT-NV agreement

BLM Environmental Impact Study

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is restarting the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the SNWA pumping proposal. They accepted scoping comments last year but then the project was changed and other projects were proposed that would withdraw water from the same regional aquifer system. As a result, the BLM reopened scoping and will accept written comments until Tues., Oct. 17. Please make your voice heard.

Scoping helps the BLM determine what issues need to be addressed in the EIS. About 8,500 scoping comments were received in the first round of scoping (a record). Substantive changes have been made since the original scoping period last year. Changes made to the proposal since the original scoping period in 2005, include the conveyance of about 36,000 acre feet per year of water for the Lincoln County Water District, the cancellation of proposed groundwater development in the Tikaboo Valley North Basin, and shifts in alignment and location of well fields and facilities.

Additional information about the project and the report from the original scoping period held April – August 2005 is available at Nevada BLM, or by calling Penny Woods at the BLM Nevada State Office, 775-861-6466.

BLM SNWA project
Written comments may be mailed to Penny Woods, BLM, P.O. Box 12000, Reno, NV 89520-0006 or faxed to 775-861-6689.

Penny Woods, Pipeline Projects Coordinator
BLM Nevada State Office
1340 Financial Boulevard
P.O. Box 12000
Reno, Nevada 89520-0006
Fax: 775-861-6689

Nevada State Engineer public comments

The Nevada State Engineer recently completed hearings for SNWA's water rights applications in Spring Valley, Nevada (one basin west of Snake Valley). There are interbasin flows from Spring Valley to Snake Valley. Public comments were accepted during the hearings and you still can make written comments until 5 p.m. Nov. 3, 2006. A common theme, even offered by SNWA witnesses, is that there is not enough data to know what will happen if the massive quantities of water SNWA wants to pump are allowed.

State Water Engineer Tracy Taylor
c/o Hearing Officer Susan Joseph-Taylor
Department of Water Resources
901 So. Stewart St. #2002
Carson City, NV 89701

UT-NV agreement

Utah and Nevada have to reach an agreement about the amount of water available in Snake Valley before any water can be exported from Snake Valley,. This is because Snake Valley spans the Utah-Nevada border and water pumped from across the state line easily could have impacts in Utah. This agreement was mandated in public law 108-424 passed in November 2004.

The UT team is headed by Utah Department of Natural Resources chief Mike Styler.

In the early days of the SNWA proposal, Utah negotiators said they wanted to wait until at least BARCASS (Basin and Range Carbonate Aquifer System Study being conducted by the USGS, due in December 2007). In fact, I made a suggestion to a member of the UT negotiating team and was told to wait until after BARCASS. A few months ago word reached the UT negotiation team that Harry Reid was poised to rescind the agreement provision language in 108-424 because the process was going too slowly for SNWA's taste. This caused the UT negotiation team to put the negotiation on a fast track. Since then the Utah Legislature Interim Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment unanimously passed a non-binding resolution advising Governor Huntsman's administration to slow down and wait for the science necessary to make a good, solid, tough agreement. That resolution will be presented to the full legislature during its general session at the beginning of 2007. Mr. Styler recently said in a newspaper interview that his goal is the end of this year -- one year before BARCASS will be complete.

Please contact Jon Huntsman, Jr. and thank him for his continued support of Snake Valley residents and resources. Ask him to slow the negotiations while adequate scientific studies are conducted. Also, write letters to the editor to press him point to the citizens of Utah.

Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Utah State Capitol Complex
East Office Building, Suite E220
PO Box 142220
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220
Fax 801-538-1528
Lt. Governor's Fax 801-538-1557
contact: Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. website

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Review: Desert Wars - Water and the West

Desert Wars - Water and the West premiered September 25 at 8 PM and again September 27 at 11 PM with an encore Sunday 10-1-06 at 3 PM. You can find details and background at KUED.

Overall, the documentary was fair and balanced. Several people commented that Snake Valley residents spoke to the issues of environmental damage to Snake Valley while the Las Vegas spokespeople mostly said, "We need lots of water and you have to give it to us." While Snake Valley was represented by residents, with some support from Governor Huntsman and his head of natural resources, typical Las Vegas citizens were not interviewed. (Some polls indicate that Las Vegans are opposed to the side effects of growth -- congestion, pollution, crime.) The Las Vegas representatives were shills of the deep-pocketed and powerful gaming and land development industries.

A couple of points need addressing. If Snake Valley residents had been reinterviewed, after the Las Vegas representatives, we could have more adequately dealt with them in our interviews.

What Goes to Vegas Stays in Vegas

Once a pipeline costing billions is constructed and water starts flowing south, the political, legal, and financial pressure to keep it flowing will be overwhelming. It will be impossible to stop, regardless of impacts in Snake Valley. Once a municipality has become used to a water source, even if on a trial basis while the aquifer is being tested, that water source is all but guaranteed to continue flowing.

Come Sit At Our Table

A SNWA mantra from the Las Vegas boosters, running throughout the documentary, was "We've tried to get them to sit at the table with us." SNWA has asked Nevada's White Pine County and Ely City to sit at the table. They offered money, data sharing, monitor wells, and a seat at powerless monitoring/mitigation committees. But only if they first signed an agreement withdrawing water rights protests and agreed to become pipeline cheerleaders. The amount of money offered to White Pine County was not enough to hire hydrologists and other advisors to make their seat at the table meaningful. Because the county and city were less than underwhelmed by the generosity and sincerity of SNWA, they are now branded as uncooperative, obstructionist, stubborn, and immature (In the documentary Hal Rothman, history professor at UNLV, said Snake Valley ranchers should grow up and come to the table).

As for Utah residents of Snake Valley, we have not heard of any SNWA offers to meet with us, except second hand through news stories. They prefer to sic Harry Reid with threats to link the Washington County Lands Bill with Snake Valley or to rescind congressional authorization for a UT-Nevada water sharing agreement (which would force Utah to go to federal court to protect Snake Valley rights and resources).

Documentary Sequel

Desert Wars was filmed and edited prior to the Nevada State Engineer hearings on SNWA applications for 91,000 acre feet of water rights in Spring Valley, the basin west of Spring Valley. Prior to that hearing SNWA was able to cut a deal with four federal agencies in the Department of the Interior. As a result, those agencies dropped their protests to SNWA's applications in exchange for a vague and, according to some, inadequate promise to closely monitor and mitigate impacts caused by SNWA's pumping, should it begin.

Spring Valley is the centerpiece of SNWA's pipeline proposal, supplying half the total amount of 180,000 acre feet SNWA wants to pump from White Pine County and Lincoln County. The Nevada Engineer must decide on the Spring Valley applications and schedule a hearing about SNWA's Snake Valley applications. The Spring Valley stipulation agreement has been hailed as a pattern for any future agreements dealing with the water export scheme. Rumor has it, however, that the federal agencies, particularly the National Park Service, have more at stake in Snake Valley than they did in Spring Valley. Great Basin National Park lies in the southern part of Snake Valley and Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is in the north end. Most of Snake Valley is in Utah but some is in Nevada, particularly the Park and the town of Baker.

It might make a fascinating documentary to investigate how this stipulation agreement was crafted. Was there political pressure applied from Washington, DC? Why was it so necessary for the Department of Interior to get an agreement between all the agencies as a group instead of letting them approach negotiations on their own, since each has a unique mandate. How did SNWA get a virtual veto over placement of monitor wells? Why does the agreement have no trigger mechanisms when impacts are discovered.

Since the stipulation agreement was done with no public scrutiny, perhaps the followup documentary could be called, "Desert Wars - Covert Operations."

Who is watching the federal agencies?

A New York Times editorial -- A Fresh Start for the Gunnison River (09-30-06) -- lamented an agreement entered into by the National Park Service (under pressure from then Department of Interior [DOI] chief Gale Norton) relinquishing water rights in Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park. Fortunately, Judge Clarence Brimmer voided the agreement as "“arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion."

The Park Service was willing to cede water rights in aid of land development upstream along Colorado's Front Range. The agreement would have eliminated "peak flow" -- a cyclical, higher-than-normal flow that helps keep streams and rivers healthy. The agreement was negotiated without public scrutiny, which was the basis of Judge Brimmer'’s decision.

The editorial ends: "The agreement was also one of the clearest examples of the Bush administration's willingness to ignore science in favor of politics. Discarding it was the right thing to do, but it would have been far better if Ms. Norton and the National Park Service had paid attention to the conclusions of their own scientists in the first place."

Here we go again

What does this have to do with Snake Valley's fight against the scheme to export water to Las Vegas? In the opening moments of hearings just completed, concerning water rights applications in neighboring Nevada basin Spring Valley, SNWA announced a stipulation agreement with the DOI in behalf of four agencies: National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

That agreement also was completed without public scrutiny. The Goshute Tribe, based in Ibapah, Utah rightfully expressed anger about not being consulted prior to the signing of the agreement by BIA (see Goshute press release).

The agreement contains no triggers to cause pre-determined actions (such as pumping less water or shutting off pumps). It calls for monitor wells (although SNWA gets a veto over locations). Impacts detected in Spring Valley would be addressed by a monitoring/mitigation committee comprised of SNWA and federal agency personnel. Wording allows SNWA to take unilateral action if the committee cannot decide on actions within a year of the impact being raised (which could be several months or years after the impact actually begins developing).

The federal agencies withdrew their water rights protests for an opportunity to monitor the situation as it goes south (so to speak) and for a forum in which to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Prior to the agreement's signing, NPS hydrologists ran a model SNWA hyped in the water rights hearing. SNWA witnesses testified there is insufficient data to run the model predictively. The NPS results were similar to runs from a model created by hydrologist Dr. Tom Meyers, who predicted water table drawdowns of hundreds of feet with protracted pumping. SNWA got the NPS model results stricken from the hearing records, citing stipulation agreement conditions.

SNWA did not want to negotiate separately with these four agencies so after SNWA whined to Washington DC, the DOI appointed a liaison and began pressing the agencies to reach consensus on an agreement with SNWA. While this cozy arrangement makes life easier for SNWA, it does not make sense for the agencies or for the general public. Each of these four agencies has its own unique mandate. The NPS logically has different concerns about the water export scheme than does the BIA, FWS, or BLM. Why should they get their heads together and sign a one-size-fits-all agreement? Unless this is a political decision as much as it is a scientific decision.

This fits the DOI pattern emerging in the media, from so many different angles. The rich and powerful (of which Las Vegas abounds) have special ins with the DOI. The resulting anemic Spring Valley agreement is a result.

When it comes time for the Nevada Engineer to begin holding water rights hearings on Snake Valley can we expect another secret agreement and an announcement of another DOI public sellout?

New York Times editorial (requires free registration) Also see Rocky Mountain News

Friday, September 29, 2006

Thoughts on "Desert Wars" - Pete Ashdown

I watched the Desert Wars documentary last night and found it to be a
striking commentary. It would seem to me the solution is clear and
there is no compromise to be had. There simply isn't water to spare for
Las Vegas. SNWA's repeated statement, "All we want to do is sit down at
a table and discuss the issue," would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

I plan to visit Callao and Ibapah in October. I hope to meet some of
you then.

Pete Ashdown
Ashdown for U.S. Senate

NOTE: Neither this blog nor Great Basin Water Network (or affiliates) endorse any candidate, but we appreciate support from any candidate.