Farming in Callao

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.)

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