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Utah Puts Brakes on Nevada Water Transfer

February 12, 2007

Action by the state of Utah last week could stall the giant water transfer to Las Vegas for at least two years. Utah rancher Cecil Garland, a member of the North Snake Valley Citizen's Alliance is one of those who pushed state lawmakers to pass the resolution, which calls on Utah's Governor to "refrain from any agreement with Nevada" until several scientific studies are complete, including a deep well study that is just now being funded by Utah lawmakers.

"Why in the world would you make any kind of an agreement with anybody, until you know the results of that testing? I mean after all, you're going to spend two million dollars."

The Southern Nevada Water Authority maintains the transfer of water is critical to supporting the growing population of Las Vegas, but Garland thinks the Water Authority needs to slow down, because the testing is expected to take at least two years.

Both Nevada and Utah need to wait to see what the studies say, according to UNLV Professor Emeritus Jim Deacon, because the water transfer threatens the region's already scarce wetlands.

"The very high probability that in the next decades to one hundred years or so, that we will see a very severe decline in biodiversity throughout the area; a number of endemic species are dependent on the wetlands systems in the area, that are likely to dry up."

Garland says it will take years for Utah to drill down into the Carbonate Aquifer and then pump out enough water to determine what the likely impact of the Nevada water transfer would be.

"So, these are not just shallow wells that we use to irrigate our farms, but these are deep wells and expensive wells. So, I am saying at the minimum of two years before we are going to begin to know."

Deacon will speak at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Barrick Museum Auditorium on the UNLV campus.

Michael Clifford/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - NV