Indian Tribes in eastern Nevada received a great victory in a long-standing fight to protect their sacred lands and water from being drained and converted into a barren dust bowl by Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).
Since the late 1980s, Las Vegas water officials have pushed plans to import groundwater from across eastern Nevada to supply future growth and provide a backup supply to the Las Vegas Valley, which gets 90 percent of its drinking water from an overtaxed and drought-stricken Colorado River. Water authority officials hope to deliver water to the valley from as far north as Great Basin National Park through a network of pumps and pipelines stretching more than 300 miles and costing as much as $15 billion. The attorney for SNWA has aptly called this the “largest water case in Nevada’s history”.
On December 10, 2013 the Seventh Judicial Court of Nevada in Ely reversed the Nevada State Engineer’s decision to grant SNWA virtually all of the groundwater in eastern Nevada water basins (about 84,000 acre feet annually). The Court ruled that the amount of water awarded had to be reduced and recalculated. Importantly, the Court also agreed with the Tribes that the monitoring and mitigation approved by the State Engineer had to be revised to include more participants and have more detailed standards to protect against environmental damage from draining groundwater from the basins.