Editorial: Big water ruling for rural Nevada

It might only be a temporary roadblock for thirsty Clark County’s attempt to take water from rural Nevada, but no matter how you cut it, a ruling last week in Seventh District Court in Ely by Senior District Judge Robert Estes is a big one.
The ruling not only puts a halt to the drilling by Clark County, it sets new standards of impact for Las Vegas interests. These new standards are righteous and important for the state to set.

Water is life. And just because Las Vegas has grown beyond its capacity gives it no right to reach out to rural areas to suck water from valleys at a such a tremendous rate that it has irreversible generational implications for rural Nevadans.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported this about the decision:

“(Judge) Estes ordered the state engineer to recalculate and likely reduce how much the authority can safely be allowed to pump from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys to avoid draining the basins and causing conflicts with other water rights holders there and elsewhere.

“Particularly in Spring Valley, where the most pumping is expected to occur, Estes found the amount of water granted to the authority would prevent the basin from reaching equilibrium even after 200 years. This so-called water mining ‘is unfair to following generations of Nevadans and is not in the public interest,’ he said.

And that gets right to the heart of it. Gov. Brian Sandoval should be far more active stopping this water grab. Traditionally, more populous counties work in cahoots with the State Engineer to the detriment of rural counties. Judge Estes has at least slowed down that alliance. Perhaps that will give the governor time to re-look at what’s going on here and broker a deal that doesn’t (and please forgive our French here) screw rural Nevadans without solving the long-term needs of Las Vegas. — SF

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