(LAS VEGAS, KXNT)–An environmental group has filed suit in federal court to halt a right-of-way required for Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan to pump billions of gallons of groundwater to Las Vegas from rural counties hundreds of miles away.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s suit describes the plan as a ‘water grab’ that would affect  more than 5,500 acres of meadows, more than 200 springs, 33 miles of trout streams, and 130,600 acres of sagebrush habitat for sage grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn as water tables plunge by 200 feet.”

A court recently ordered the Authority and state engineers to review engineering figures for the project. The Authority responded by announcing it would appeal the ruling.

The Center for Biological Diversity suit says the Water Authority admits the plan would adversely harm the environment. “Enough is enough,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based senior scientist with the Center.

The project envisions siphoning  more than 27.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from the desert of eastern Nevada and pump it more than 260 miles to the Las Vegas Valley. The project’s cost is an estimated $15.5 billion.

In a recent interview with KXNT, a Water Authority spokesman figured it could be five years before Las Vegas would see any water from the pumping project, and as many as another 10-15 years before the groundwater would be contributing a significant percentage of the Valley’s water.

Las Vegas receives about 90% of its water from Lake Mead and the Colorado River Basin. The groundwater project is part of a plan to find alternative sources of water since levels of Lake Mead have been declining through drought and usage.

The Water Authority envisions the groundwater plan triggering once the elevation level of Lake Mead waters drops to 1075 feet, about 33 feet below current levels.

The Center for Biological Diversity is part of a network of environmental groups which says it is not opposed to water for Southern Nevada, but prefers other methods of increasing indoor and outdoor conservation, reasonable limits to growth, and re-evaluating how the Colorado River is managed and used, instead of a pipeline project, which it describes as short-sighted.

The groups favor exploring long-term solar-powered desalinization of Pacific Ocean water.


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