SNWA loses another round in court

thirsty
Great Basin Water Network "Water is Life" video still. (greatbasinwater.net)
thirsty
Great Basin Water Network “Water is Life” video still. (greatbasinwater.net)

The Seventh Judicial District Court in Ely has denied an appeal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority for additional water rights, in the latest blow for the planned Las Vegas water pipeline.

The proposed 300-mile pipeline would siphon more than 58 billion gallons per year of groundwater each year from Eastern Nevada to the fast-growing Las Vegas metropolitan area. Opponents believe a completed pipeline would result in declines to the water table, destroying hundreds of springs, thousands of acres of wetlands, and harm the Great Basin National Park and numerous National Wildlife Refuges.

Moving forward, the authority will evaluate its Water Resource Plan, which is done annually to ensure reliable water supplies to meet current and future water demands, according to the SNWA.

“Since these groundwater applications were filed more than 30 years ago, Southern Nevada has emerged as a world leader in urban water conservation. Through SNWA’s proactive water resource management and the community’s achievements in water efficiency, there is no scenario in our Water Resource Plan where this project would be needed within the next 30 years,” wrote a SNWA spokesman in a statement.

Last year a federal district court judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management failed to show how it would compensate for potentially significant losses to wetlands and wildlife habitat caused by the pipeline project, sending the decision back to state engineer for additional environmental analysis.

Based off the courts ruling, the state engineer denied the water authority’s applications to pump groundwater out of four water basins in Eastern Nevada before appealing his own ruling, arguing that his office was prevented from granting the water authority’s permits due to unprecedented requirements for determining the availability of water set by the District Court, which he said were inconsistent with the long-standing Nevada water law.

And in September the Southern Nevada Water Authority board voted unanimously to move forward with an appeal to the ruling.

The Groundwater Development Project, as SNWA calls it, is part of SNWA’s 50-year plan to meet Southern Nevada’s anticipated water needs.

Since the plan was developed in 1989, it has prompted frequent and sometimes bitter clashes between SNWA and opponents. When the economy crashed a decade ago, so did the project’s profile. But as Southern Nevada’s economy and population rebounded, so did attention to its controversial groundwater pumping plan.

The Great Basin Water Network, which has been fighting the pipeline proposal for over 30 years, partnered with White Pine County to challenge the project in court.

“SNWA has no right-of-way for the pipeline and no rights to water with which to fill the pipeline,” said Kyle Roerink, GBWN executive director. “This project is dead in the water. It’s time for SNWA to finally move on.”

The pipeline has been repeatedly challenged in court by multiple parties, including a number of tribes, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and the state of Utah.

“This is a devastating blow to the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s destructive water grab,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This project has lost repeatedly in state and federal courts, with Las Vegas ratepayers footing the bill for millions of dollars in legal fees and permitting.”

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.