Is Las Vegas Running Out of Water? Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Water Problem
May 26, 2010 I attended the Southern Nevada Certified Commercial Investment Managers (CCIM) Chapter monthly meeting at the Rio in Las Vegas. I went for one reason, the title and speaker,
“How You May Be Impacted by Nevada’s Water Supply” presented by Pat Mulroy.
Mrs. Mulroy is the general manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority.
As a long time real estate professional who specializes in agricultural land with water rights in Nevada, I talk with Nevada’s farmers and ranchers’ everyday; I was shocked by the introduction.
The lady introducing Mrs. Mulroy said about her, among other things, how wonderful she is, how hard she works, how powerful she is, and then she said, “and something I’ll bet none of you know about her, She HATES COWS”.
Mrs. Mulroy took the stage and went on to say “anything that dumb and big has to be dangerous” referring to cattle. The friendly crowd of men and women dressed in suits and ties laughed.
I on the other hand, immediately took umbrage, and thought to myself, I wonder if this lady realizes where the food in the grocery store comes from.
I took notes the whole time she talked.
Her presentation seemed to me to be based on the fear factor.
She talked about snow pack in Colorado this past winter being at 67% of normal. She talked about continuing drought conditions. She explained that Lake Mead is running an annual deficit of approximately 2.7 million acre feet this year. There are 8.2 million acre feet coming in and 10.9 million acre feet going out.
Mrs. Mulroy explained the Lake Mead Water level measurements with future projections.
But first let me give you a little history, from 1939 to 2003 Lake Mead averaged 1173 foot elevation, the high water or maximum point for Lake Mead is 1229.
Today Lake Mead stands at about 1094. Since the canyon narrows as it descends, the water level drops faster and faster as it is over drafted, so expect the drop to accelerate.
Mrs. Mulroy explained that at the 1088 foot elevation level they could lose the upper intake for the water supply to Boulder City and 40% of Las Vegas’s supply.
She said, “At 1050 Hoover Dam stops generating power and that the dam supplies all of the electricity to Overton Power and Lincoln County Power.”
“At 1000 Vegas loses the lower intake that would literally cut off 90% of the water supply to Las Vegas and all of the water supply to Boulder City.”
She stated that, Southern Nevada Water Association uses approximately 9.5 million acre feet per year, (that sounds like ten times too much to me) and once Lake Mead goes below 1025 there are only 4 to 5 million acre feet of water left in the reservoir.
She said the Lincoln and White Pine Counties pipeline will start construction in 2012 if the lake goes below 1075, period!
What makes you think they will stop in White Pine and Lincoln Counties?
Her facts can be verified at: http://www.snwa.com/html/wr_resource_plan.html
Pat Mulroy said “SNWA will be utilizing all the water rights it owns or controls in the Virgin River, which runs through Mesquite/Bunkerville and the Muddy River in Moapa/Overton”.
Work has begun on a so called third straw. It has been referred to as a bath tub drain.
Michael Johnson, Virgin Valley Water District hydrologist, told me years ago the aquifer that runs under our Mesquite Valley travels under Lake Mead, could they tap into it?
She said “the hyperbole (hyper exaggerations) coming from rural Nevadan’s about their water table concerns was childish.” She went on to say “the rural Nevada farmers and ranchers are being Pig Headed.”
She referenced a recent USGS Basin and Range study that she claims shows plenty of extra water. I have not yet located any completed study; http://ut.water.usgs.gov/projects/greatbasin/
When I asked, she said the reason for the huge draw down or overdraft, according to a recent NASA study in California’s Central Valley was the result of farmers irrigating and lack of government regulation. New space observations reveal that since October 2003, the aquifers for California’s primary agricultural region — the Central Valley — and its major mountain water source — the Sierra Nevada — have lost nearly enough water combined to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.
Finally for the record, she said “there are plenty of un-appropriated water rights in Nevada and the Snake Basin is next in her sights.”
When I questioned her on that, she lashed out at me, “Do you have a better idea?”
She appears to me to be dead set on tapping into and draining rural East Central and North Eastern Nevada, Western Utah and Southern Idaho’s aquifers to supply Las Vegas.
They did it to Pahrump, Nevada
She said” If I have to set up a cot in Harry Reid’s office, I will stay until I get a permanent chair”. I did not know Harry passed out water rights. That job belongs to the Nevada State Engineer.
She said to watch for a favorable Moodys Rating Agency report coming out that should help support project financing in Las Vegas. I wonder if Moodys knows any thing about water. Remember the rating agencies said the Mortgage Backed Securities were safe and secure too.
She may be powerful, but based on her comments, attitude and general demeanor; clearly she is not as sharp as you would expect!
That does not mean you should under estimate her ability or determination to get this done.