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Southern Nevada Water Authority

Nevada Groundwater Project Receives Federal Approval

Dry Lake Valley

The Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties
Groundwater Development Project could
bring more than 80,000 acre-feet of water to
Southern Nevada.

Southern Nevada ‘Safety Net’ Permitted by Bureau of Land Management

In December 2012, federal officials signed a Record of Decision authorizing the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), the not-for-profit regional agency that supplies water to Las Vegas and surrounding communities, to construct facilities associated with the Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project.

After nearly a decade of environmental analyses, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the green light to a project that could bring more than 80,000 acre-feet of water to Southern Nevada. An acre-foot of water, stretched through conservation and reuse, can supply 3.4 Southern Nevada single-family homes for one year. This decision shortly follows a finding by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that the project would not jeopardize federally endangered or threatened species in the area associated with the project.

“This is a huge milestone for Southern Nevada,” said SNWA General Manager Patricia Mulroy. “The ability to draw upon a portion of our own state’s renewable groundwater supplies reduces our dependence on the drought-prone Colorado River and provides a critical safety net for the two million people who call Southern Nevada home.”

The BLM’s Record of Decision comes on the heels of the release of a federal study that projects shortages ranging from moderate to severe during the next several decades. Modeling several climatic and population scenarios, the recently issued Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study indicated an average imbalance of 3.2 million acre-feet per year along the river by the end of the planning horizon, a volume of water more than 10 times greater than Nevada’s entire Colorado River allocation.

“What the study really told us was that we must prepare for a much drier future, and that we can’t count on the Colorado River to sustain our community in the way it once did,” Mulroy said, alluding to metropolitan Las Vegas’ current 90 percent dependence upon the river. “Having this alternate supply at our disposal should give residents and businesses a much greater sense of security about the future of our community.”

Construction of the 250-plus-mile pipeline will not begin immediately, but rather will be dictated by Colorado River conditions and the community’s water needs. Because of the project’s multi-phased design, additional environmental studies and analyses will be ongoing as the project moves forward.

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