On March 9th Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Robert Estes denied an appeal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to transfer 91,000 Acre Feet Yearly (AFY) of groundwater from Eastern Nevada to the Nevada Vegas Metropolitan area. The SNWA decided it will not appeal the decision.
SNWA projected spending $15.5 billion to develop the 300-mile-long pipeline to take groundwater water from Dry Lake, Delamar, Cave, and Spring Valleys.
SNWA Pipeline Map
“Judge Estes’ ruling ended seven victories that opponents of SNWA’s Pipeline Project won in both state and federal court going back to 2009,” said Simeon Herskovits of Advocates for Community and Environment, lead attorney for the broad coalition of pipeline opponents.
According to Patrick Donnelly, Nevada State Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, “Multiple courts have said there’s no way you can pump water without decimating the communities that rely upon the water in this region. […] That is almost indisputable at this point. There’s no way you can mitigate draining an aquifer.”
In a written statement responding to the ruling, SNWA downplayed the need for the pipeline in the short term.
“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,” spokesman Bronson Mack wrote:
“Moving forward, SNWA will evaluate its Water Resource Plan, which is done annually, to continue ensuring reliable water supplies to meet current and future water demands for decades to come.”
Judge Estes also rejected the monitoring, management, and mitigation, or 3M, plan SNWA proposed as a way of overcoming potential problems with the applications.
The plan, Estes said, lacks evidence it would be effective at offsetting problems from pumping groundwater, and it lacks accountability metrics for enforcement.
“SNWA’s plan yet again will determine, unilaterally, if its own pumping is the cause of the shrinking shrubland,” Estes wrote. “There is no data or explanation in the ‘Plan’ to describe exactly how it shall be determined.”
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, D, argued against the plan during his winning campaign against Nevada former Attorney general Republican Adam Laxalt.