Posted by Chris M Friday, July 11, 2008

A few more Owens valleys?

I haven't posted in a while. My excuse is new job + lack of personal internet = few postings. Hopefully, I can do some good post about my job and its interesting setting in the not to distant future. This post will give some background to the area I am working in.

Las Vegas is the fourth fastest growing city in the US. Its population is expected to double in the next 30 years. As can be expected with a rapidly expanding city, its demand for water is also ballooning. However, with a drying Lake Mead, Las Vegas’s current water source, the city is looking for other options. With every other river in the vicinity already tapped, they are looking at ground water.

Parts of eastern Nevada and western Utah are underlain by large areas of carbonate rock that form the Great Basin aquifer. The aquifer's water currently is released in numerous springs that provide unique habitats in the middle of the desert, irrigation water, and municipal water for several small towns.

Las Vegas, hungry for the water in this aquifer, have bought up water rights in numerous Great Basin valleys for the stated desire to pump large amounts of water out of these valleys to feed its growing population.

On Wednesday, Nevada’s state engineer approved the Southern Nevada Water Authority (basically Las Vegas) to pump over 18,000 acre-feet of water, half of what SNWA wanted, from three valleys in Nevada’s Lincoln County. This is only one chunk of water that SNWA wants to pump. It is also seeking 50,000 acre-feet from Snake Valley, the site of Great Basin National Park.

The valleys to be pumped are located to the east of me and are connected to the same aquifer that is the source for the water at my job location. I am quite skeptical of the claims that the huge amount of water to be pumped won’t affect current ground water levels. I hope this doesn’t result in a few more Owens valleys. More posts on this later.

Waterwired has some more information.