Farming in Callao

Thursday, October 26, 2006

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.

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