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Western Water Wars
|Last Edited||ArmyDem Aug 30, 2005 10:45pm|
|Media||Weekly News Magazine - TIME Magazine|
|News Date||Wednesday, August 31, 2005 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0|
|Description||Las Vegas eyes rural Nevada's aquifers, triggering a debate about the future of this arid region |
By J. MADELEINE NASH/SNAKE VALLEY
Posted Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005
The valley below Nevada's Snake mountains should not have much to fear from Las Vegas. Its dun-colored terrain daubed with the green of shrubs, meadow grasses and crops lies some 200 miles north of the roaring, metastasizing metropolis for which the state is most famous. But the 1.7 million people of greater Las Vegas may have designs on the fewer than 1,000 people of Snake Valley--or rather, on their water.
As one of the fastest-growing population centers in the country, Las Vegas has a powerful thirst. Every month 5,000 to 7,000 newcomers arrive to retire or find jobs, meaning the already swollen population could double in 20 to 30 years. Though water-conservation measures have reduced the city's annual consumption since 2002, they cannot contain such explosive growth. So Las Vegas has gone looking for its water farther from home.
The city started to move last year on earlier filings for groundwater rights in Clark, Lincoln and White Pine counties, setting off a water war that could be repeated across the parched but popular Southwest. Let the Las Vegans have their way, other Nevadans warn, and you could upset a complex web of aquifers that run as far away as California's Death Valley and western Utah, where Snake Valley partly lies. That could do irreversible damage to plant, wildlife and human populations all sipping from the same limited supply. For every desert population center, there is a similarly limited supply of water and a similar potential for political warfare.