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Southern Nevada Water Authority

SNWA board approves agreements to support new water pact

Aug. 17, 2017

The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Board of Directors today approved six agreements that will pave the way for a larger pact between the United States and Mexico, strengthening existing drought protections and potentially keeping billions of additional gallons of water in Lake Mead.

The SNWA agreements relate to Minute 323, a binational operational agreement under the 1944 water treaty between the United States and Mexico. Under the terms of Minute 323, the neighboring nation would agree to absorb a share of shortages should Lake Mead fall below specific elevations, slowing the lake’s decline if the drought persists. Other key elements of Minute 323 include environmental restoration and a variety of water conservation projects to be undertaken within that nation.

Another provision of the proposed accord is that it allows Mexico to create a “water reserve” in the United States by deferring delivery of a portion of its annual Colorado River allocation. It is anticipated that much of that water will help maintain Lake Mead’s elevation and avert declared shortages.

While the SNWA will bear a portion of the financial commitment for conservation projects—the Board authorized up to $7.5 million for this purpose—it will in return gain a proportional share of the 109,100 acre-feet of conserved water designated for use in the United States, adding to its portfolio of temporary supplies. Because the SNWA and other regional entities have a water resource and financial stake in Minute 323, so-called “domestic agreements” underpinning the agreement require approval by participating entities before the two nations can finalize it.

"This is a good deal for Southern Nevada, the Southwest and Mexico," explained SNWA General Manager John Entsminger. “We gain more tools to protect our water supply while reducing the chance of shortage, and Mexico gets both a valuable water reserve and increased resource management flexibility. Additionally, there are environmental benefits to critical wildlife habitat. It’s a win for everyone involved.”

Entsminger, who has been with the SNWA for nearly two decades and was assigned by Governor Sandoval to serve as Nevada’s lead negotiator on Colorado River matters, has been very active in advocating for pacts that benefit both Lake Mead and the larger Colorado River community.  He also has spearheaded efforts to renew and enhance Southern Nevada’s water treatment and delivery system, which can produce and convey nearly a billion gallons of water a day.

The SNWA is a not-for-profit regional agency tasked with securing a safe, reliable water supply for Southern Nevada’s 2.1 million residents and 42 million annual visitors.


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