Farming in Callao

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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.

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