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New Water Study Finds Rural Nevadans and Utah Tribe “At Risk”

September 13, 2007

A new study says the proposed Las Vegas Water Pipeline could end up costing people in rural Nevada and Utah a bundle, and at least one Indian tribe is ready to sue about the issue.

The peer-reviewed study, in this month's Bioscience magazine, says if the state approves the pipeline and other projects on the drawing board, the proposed amount of water to be taken could be twice the actual amount available in the affected basins in the two states. That means residents of the region could end up paying for water that is pumped in, to replace what they currently have. It's a dilemma that has Ed Naranjo, leader of Utah's Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, concerned enough to discuss it with his attorneys.

"The Southern Nevada Water Authority has been purchasing ranches to the West of us to secure water rights. But for us, this is a reservation and it cannot be sold. People are going to die, animals are going to die, nothing will remain."

The tribe has notified the Bureau of Indian Affairs that it intends to sue. The Water Authority maintains it can replenish rural areas in Nevada and Utah by pumping in water to recharge local springs. But study author Dr. Jim Deacon, professor emeritus of Environmental Studies at University of Nevada - Las Vegas, says it's not just a single Utah tribe or area at risk. He predicts, in Nevada, the water table could drop by as much as 1,600 feet from Indian Springs to Baker.

"The groundwater table will be lowered to the extent that everybody now relying on it will be harmed. People are now pumping from fairly shallow wells, and to drill deeper means their costs will increase dramatically. It will become so costly they won't be able to afford it. There is simply not enough water to accomplish what they are proposing without serious damage to the environment."

Deacon adds this includes more than 150 plant and animal species, which also would be put at risk. He explains if all the proposed water projects were approved, the result would amount to removal of 250 percent of the current local water supply.

Michael Clifford/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NV